Keith Haring’s Most Surprising Work Arrives in L.A.

The ‘art car’ of Keith Haring, famous for his subway sketches, lands at the Petersen
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Keith Haring became an iconic ’80s artist with his cheerful figures—often representing large themes like birth, life, death, and AIDS—sketched on subways, buildings, and sidewalks of cities like New York and Philadelphia. Even if you don’t recognize his name offhand, you’ve definitely seen his art.

A recreation of Haring's first major outdoor project. (The original mural was painted over shortly after its creation in 1982)
A recreation of Haring’s first major outdoor project. (The original mural was painted over shortly after its creation in 1982)

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

One of his lesser-known works is a painted 1971 Land Rover “art car,” a somewhat uncharacteristic work that’s getting its due this month, with a party and exhibit at the invigorated Petersen Automotive Museum.

The art car party happens Thursday night at the museum—with Haring’s New York contemporary/current L.A. artist Kenny Scharf leading a conversation—while the Land Rover will be on display in the lobby until the end of the month (that’s only until Sunday!).

The Land Rover was conceived nearly 70 years ago in Wales and first went into production in 1948—both the British public and military quickly took to this SUV precursor. Haring’s take on a 1971 version—painted in 1983, seven years before his AIDS-related death—is called the “Haring Defender” and features “whimsical art over olive drab paint on a vehicle designed at least in part for military use,” according to the Petersen. We see a flying clock, a pyramid, a wolf man, a person with a tail, another with a TV for a head, and lots of Haring’s shimmying humanoids.

The Land Rover is part of the Petersen’s effort to display more vehicles that are not just engineering marvels, but moving pieces of art. Hopefully, a “Best of Burning Man” exhibit is on deck.

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