NOTIONS and preconceptions. Interrogating identity, primarily misconceptions of identity, is central to the work of both Keith Haring and Sol Calero. Their work will be exhibited at the Tate Liverpool this summer, bringing together two artists who combine art and searing activism.
Keith Haring is the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK, encompassing over 85 works including large-scale drawings and paintings, as well as rare archival footage of his live chalk drawings. His artwork will also showcase his important legacy as an activist, his well-known pieces Crack is Wack and Silence = Death highlighting the fight against drug abuse and AIDs respectively, often humanising instead of vilifying its victims. With a unique pop art style inspired by far-ranging influences from Chinese calligraphy to New York graffiti, the cheerful brightness of his work often belied a serious message, reeling you in before the sucker-punch. However, the infectious optimism of his dancing bodies and his repeating motif of the Radiant Baby seem to show an ultimate belief in the spirit of humanity.
Ignorance = Fear 1989 © Keith Haring Foundation/ Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris
Sol Calero is similarly interested in breaking down cultural boundaries and stereotypes. Her work El Autobus, commissioned by the Tate Liverpool, is an immersive installation featuring a beautifully adorned public bus enclosed by brightly coloured murals. The bus is richly decorated with folk art and iconography, representing the authentic tradition of Latin American local communities, and their daily reality and commute. However, the audio-visual guide within the bus showcases an idealised and exoticised Latin America, the fantasy destination that holidaymakers want, showing the problematic gulf between authenticity and stereotype. As a reflection on her experience as a migrant living between two cultures, Calero has created a beguiling invitation for the visitor to explore and interrogate their own misconceptions.
Sol Calero, Amazonas Shopping Center 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Jan Windszus
Overall, these are two artists united by the desire to not only make art, but to affect change. From Keith Haring to Sol Calero and beyond, the legacy of arts and activism is in safe hands.
By Lucy Wai
Keith Haring and Sol Calero: El Autobus, Tate Liverpool from 14 June – 10 November 2019
Cover image: Sol Calero Interiores 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Simon Vogel