Keith Haring, Untitled, 1980 © Keith Haring Foundation (image courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Keith Haring: 1978-1982, the first large-scale exhibition to explore the early career of one of the best-loved American artists of last century will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum from April 13 through August 5, 2012.

Organized by curator Raphaela Platow of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center and the Kunsthalle Wien of Austria, the Brooklyn stop is coordinated by the associate curator of photography at the Brooklyn Museum, Patrick Amsellem.

Keith Haring, “Untitled” (1978) © Keith Haring Foundation

The exhibition focused on the formative years of Haring’s career from the time of his arrive in New York from Pennsylvania “through the years when he started his studio practice and began making public and political art on the city streets.”

During this era, Haring quickly became a fixture in New York’s downtown scene and associated with the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and other artists who loved to blur the boundaries between street art, performance, poetry, fashion and music.

The show will delve into a time when Haring was still finding the visual language that became his signature by the mid-1980s. Among the works on display will be seven video pieces (including his very first, “Haring Paints Himself into a Corner,” in which he paints to the music of the band Devo, and “Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt”) and collages created from cut-up fragments of his own writing, history textbooks and newspapers that closely relate to collage flyers he created with a Xerox machine.

“This exhibition of Keith Haring focuses on his early works from 1978 to 1982, in many cases work that has rarely if ever been seen. In this period Haring experimented with abstraction and semiotics and developed his visual vocabulary,” Amsellem says. “All the works are on paper and the show also includes several of Haring’s early video pieces that express his interest in the performative aspect of art making. The show includes a rich trove of archival material that presents Haring’s thoughts on artistic process and his role as a facilitator and curator of many group shows and performances on the downtown scene. It follows the emergence of a unique talent just as he was finding his artistic voice.”

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.