- Keith Haring
- incised with the artist's signature and and stamped 1/5 on the base
- painted aluminium
Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2005
London, Somerset House, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Keith Haring: Sculptures, Paintings and Works on Paper, 2005, p. 43, illustrated in colour; and pp. 8 and 12, installation view
New York, Park Avenue, Public Art Fund, Keith Haring on Park Avenue, 1997, another example exhibited, p. 12, illustrated in colour; and illustrated on the front cover
Keith Haring quoted in Flash Art, March 1984, p. 22.
An ebullient ray of sunshine yellow, Keith Haring's monumental outdoor sculpture Julia is utterly definitive of the artist's overarching ambition to bring art to the masses via an extraordinary, unprecedented fusion of the realm of high art and the public sphere. Julia embodies energy and grace through its joyous representation of the human figure. Named after Haring’s close friend, assistant and studio manager Julia Gruen, who, since his death has been instrumental in establishing Haring’s legacy as a seminal figure within the world of contemporary art, the sculpture employs Haring’s core artistic principles and beliefs about the celebration of humanity, possessing a distinctive silhouette that echoes the bold lines of his drawings and paintings. Executed in aluminium and painted in bright primary yellow, Julia strikes a pose reminiscent of an energetic dancer in full swing, caught mid-motion. The sculpture has an undeniable sense of dynamism that perfectly encapsulates Haring’s desire to create works that do not imitate life but “try to create life, try to invent life” (Cliff Flyman, 'Interview with Keith Haring', 26 September 1980, in: Germano Celant, Ed., Keith Haring, Munich 1992, p. 116).
Haring’s brief but illustrious career, which spanned the 1980s, began with a childhood interest in the cartoon-like figures from popular culture created by cartoonists such as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney. After moving to New York City in 1978, Haring was swept up in the thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system. It was here, in the downtown streets, subways and public spaces, that Haring established a personal and artistic connection with fellow artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Scharf and Basquiat were similarly employing anti-establishment methods to create unauthorised public artworks that endeavoured to reduce the distinction between high and low art.
The desire to minimise this distinction further associated Haring with one of his largest influences, French artist Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet’s attack on conformism and mainstream culture meant that he occupied the paradox of the anti-establishment artist who became sought after by large corporations and museums, much like Haring himself. In the 1960s Dubuffet developed a radically new, graphic style, called Hourloupe that combined the fluid movement of line with fields of colour to evoke the manner in which objects appear in the mind. This style was further deployed in sculpture and important public commissions by Dubuffet throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
Drawing inspiration from artists such as Dubuffet, Haring developed an inimitable graphic expression that extended the art historical canon surrounding the power and primacy of line. Haring displayed this innovative graphic style through his drawings and paintings, creating a new visual language that became immediately synonymous with his name. However, it was through sculpture that Haring was able to combine his characteristic treatment of line with his interest in public art.
Producing more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989 in cities around the world, Haring created sculptures for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centres and orphanages. The evolution of Haring’s practice from graffiti chalk drawings on the subway to these monumental public sculptures shows the consistency in his desire to create artwork which maintains public visibility and accessibility. By encouraging the public to interact with his sculpture – and in fact ensuring the edges were rounded so as to reduce injury to any children playing on them – Haring continued his crusade to break down the barriers between low and high art. Julia, measuring almost two and a half metres in height, stands tall as a bold and jubilant structure that exudes energy and life and invites the viewer to become a part of her world. In line with Haring’s belief that “art should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination, and encourages people to go further,” Julia demonstrates Haring’s ability to unite line, colour and the human figure in a manner that brings sculpture to life (Keith Haring quoted in: Jeffrey Deitch and Julia Gruen, Keith Haring, New York 2008, p. 19).