Artist: Keith Haring
Title: Silence = Death
Size: 39 x 39 in. (99.1 x 99.1 cm)
Medium: Color Screenprint on Wove Paper
Edition: HC 15 of 25
Notes: Image Size: 33 x 33 in. (83.8 x 83.8 cm) Signed, dated and numbered to lower edge 'HC 15/25 K. Haring 89'. This work is hors commerce 15 of 25 apart from the edition of 200.
In 1988, Keith Haring received a diagnosis of AIDS, and during the final year of his life, he dedicated his efforts to creating powerful imagery centered around the social activism of the AIDS crisis. One of his most iconic works, "Silence = Death," is an adaptation of a poster originally crafted by a collective bearing the same name. This poster would later become the defining symbol for ACT UP, an organization founded to advocate for visibility and an end to the AIDS crisis.
The primary symbol in Haring's adaptation is a pink triangle, a powerful emblem appropriated from the Nazi regime. In concentration camps, gay men were marked with an inverted triangle, symbolizing their marginalization at the lowest rungs of society. Haring's reimagining of the original poster covers this triangle with a trio of figures, each representing the proverbial principle of "See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil." These figures collectively cover their eyes, mouths, and ears with both hands, serving as a poignant allusion to the Reagan administration's deliberate refusal to acknowledge and suppress discussion of the AIDS crisis.
This dual symbolism places significant culpability on those who turned a blind eye to the thousands of deaths within the LGBTQ+ community, drawing a parallel between the epidemic and a meticulously orchestrated genocide within a fascist regime.