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The Mural of Keith Haring: Tuttomondo 

Keith Haring

Keith Haring (1958-1990) was a young American artist who, starting off with "Subway Drawings", became famous all over the world. These were quickly executed, ephemeral drawings in chalk on temporarily blank advertising bill-boards in the metro subways. Commuters, wrapped up in their daily, impersonal routine of getting on and off the train, were drawn to the pictures, pausing to look at them and think about them. 

Keith Haring working

From that moment on, Haring's relationship with the artistic movements which influenced his lifestyle, became stronger, as did the need for protest to shake up the traditional gallery system: graffiti artists, the new Hip Hop culture and the "anti-culture" of street artists (the avant-garde art common in New York towards the end of the 1980's, which later adopted the name 'Street Art'), in 1982, at Tony Shafrazy's famous gallery, Haring exhibited his series of "tarpaulins": air-brush painted designs on panels of plastic sheeting used by builders on scaffolding. These were exhibited together with a series of amphoras and plaster models; Haring paused in his production of graphic works to throw himself into making copies of famous statues, such as Michelangelo's David, and The Milo Venus', as well as copies of ancient Greek and Egyptian amphoras. Public commissions from museums and cities all over the world poured in, especially those for temporary murals where the figures, through their graphic simplicity, communicate to everyone. The main aim of his paintings was communication, his drawings representing a "visual language", a living, visual Esperanto which everyone could readily and easily understand, with the same ease and simplicity with which he created his characters. Haring wanted to get back in touch with a primitive phase of language where the graphic symbol merges with the verbal one, a sort of sequence of ideograms: "My drawings don't try to imitate life, they try to create life...that's a much more so-called primitive idea... I don't use colours and lines to try to look life-like".

The Pisa's Mural (1989)

 The idea of creating a mural in Pisa happened by chance when a young Pisan student met Haring in the street of New York. The theme is that of peace and harmony in the world, which can be read through the links and divisions between the 30 figures which, like a puzzle, occupy 180 square metres of the south wall of the church of St. Anthony.

Particolare del murale Tuttomondo

Each figure represents a different aspect of peace in the world: the "human" scissors are the image of solidarity between Man in defeating the serpent (that is evil), which is already eating the head of the figure next to it; the woman with a baby in her arms represents maternity, and the two men supporting the dolphin refer to Man's relationship with nature.

Choosing subtle colours, toning down the violent colours which had always been characteristic of his work, Haring takes his inspiration from the colours of the buildings in Pisa and of the town generally, to create a work which would be in harmony with its social and environmental setting. It is one of the very few outdoor public works created by Haring for permanent display, not ephemeral and destined to be used only as one in a series of temporary mass communications. In fact, he spent longer producing it, a full week, than the one or two days it took him to paint most other murals. On the first day, working on his own, and without any preparatory sketches, Haring drew the black outline. For the rest of the week, he was assisted by students and craftsmen from the Caparol Center, the suppliers of the acrylic tempera paint, selected because it keeps its colour for a long time, filling in the outlines. The mural's title is 'Tuttomondo" a word which sums up the artist's constant pursuit of interaction with the public, represented in this case by the yellow figure which is walking or running in the centre of the composition on the same level as a passer-by.


 The 30 figures in the mural evoke Haring's typical vitality, and his ceaseless creative energy which allowed him to create and leave behind this anthem to life only a few months before his death from AIDS.

Where it is:

Witten by: Roberta Cecchi

Photography by: Antonio Bardelli and Claudio Pitchen

Keith Haring Found >

Keith Haring working



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