Design inspiration for CTC’s RENT

Keith Allen Haring inspired a lot of the design elements for our production of RENT which you will have seen throughout the show, particularly on the floor of the stage. A few of our members, Michael, Holly, Craig and David spent their Easter Sunday in the glorious weather painting the Haring inspired floor. Almost as an artistic match to Keith Haring’s qualities, in Jonathan Larson’s RENT we find accessibility and inspiration through the stories and heartfelt songs of hope, love and pain.

Enthusiastic at the beginning

Born May 4th, 1958, Keith was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work grew out of the New York City street culture of the 1980s.

Haring’s work grew to popularity from his spontaneous drawings in New York City subways – chalk outlines of figures, dogs, and other sylized images-on blank black advertising-space backgrounds. After public recognition he created larger scale works, such as colourful murals, many of them commissioned. His imagery has “become a widely recognized visual language”. His later work often addressed political and societal themes – especially homosexuality and AIDS – through his own iconography.

Keith Haring in front of his own works of art

During a brief but intense career that spanned the 1980s, Haring’s work was featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions. In 1986 alone, he was the subject of more than 40 newspaper and magazine articles. He was highly sought after to participate in collaborative projects ,and worked with artists and performers as diverse as Madonna, Grace Jones, Bill T. Jones, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognised visual language of the 20th century.

Haring died on February 16, 1990, of an AIDS-related complications due to illness. As a celebration of his life, Madonna declared that the first New York date of her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour would be a benefit concert for Haring’s memory and donated all proceeds from her ticket sales to AIDS charities including AIDS Project Los Angeles and amfAR; the act was documented in her film Truth or Dare. Additionally, his work was featured in several of Red Hot Organization’s efforts to raise money for AIDS and AIDS awareness, specifically its first two albums, Red Hot + Blue and Red Hot + Dance, the latter of which used Haring’s work on its cover. His art continues to remain on display worldwide.

Painting in the sunshine