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  • Keith Haring Art Connection - A Keith Haring Relation to Traffic Signs, And Signs Then and Now

Keith Haring Art Connection - A Keith Haring Relation to Traffic Signs, And Signs Then and Now

Keith Haring Art Connection - A Keith Haring Relation to Traffic Signs, And Signs Then and Now

After viewing and reading about several traffic signs, and then looking at and

studying quite a few images of Keith Haring's art, I definitely see some 

connections between them. When I first opened a page full of artwork by Keith 

Haring, the first comparison I noticed between his work and traffic signs were 

the colors. There is an obvious relation because there are eleven main traffic 

sign colors used in the United States and Keith uses them all in his art: green,

red, blue, yellow, orange, black, white, brown, blue, fluorescent yellow-green,

and fluorescent pink. I have no idea if he meant to do this on purpose, and if so, 

what his reasons and/or purposes for doing so was. Maybe he didn’t do it on 

purpose, since he obviously used other colors as well, like lighter blues, 

different shades of purple, etc. But, he mainly uses the colors of traffic signs,

especially red. A quote that caught my eye by Keith Haring was the following: 

"Red is one of the strongest colors, it's blood, it has a power with the eye. That's 

why traffic lights are red I guess, and stop signs as well...In fact I use red in all 

of my paintings. "Another resemblance would have to be in the symbols and shapes. For

example, his cartoon style images of people look a whole lot like the people 

used in traffic signs. Definitely can see a relation between his artwork and the 

modern USA "walk", "school zone", and "crossing" signs. Also, I noticed that he 

liked to use triangle shapes, and there are many triangular traffic signs like 

"yield", "train", "merge", and many more. With the exception that Keith uses all 

of these colors and symbols in a more humane way full of life and imagination.

Traffic signs and the use of symbols have changed a lot in the world since 

the 1970's. The main change would probably be the use of more plastic 

materials and less glass. Also, nowadays there are automated traffic sensors,

more electronic displays, vehicle navigation systems, automatic transmitters,

etc. My Uncle said that there are more use of symbols and graphics with less 

text now compared to then (he was in his twenties and drove in the 1970's).

There are several universal shapes and symbols used worldwide. Red with 

white octagons for stop signs, yellow with black letters for warnings, orange for

construction, and so on. Some road signs are Multilingual, using two or more

languages at once. Arrow directions, animals, train, and people symbol signs

are obvious from the actual images, usually. An everyday sign used in parking

lots and indoors of grocery stores and restaurants, would be handicapped signs

with a person in a wheelchair...meaning it is for use of handicapped people

only. In Costa Rica at the bank, I remember the bank had a sign which a picture

symbol of a pregnant belly of a woman and of a guy holding a crutch, but no

text. Only pregnant women and handicapped people could stand in that 

particular line which was quicker for them. The bathroom signs are basically the

same in the 70s as now with the 'man in pants' for men and the 'female in dress'

for women, but they actually said women/men in text back then. Many signs of

today have less text and more symbols. Examples of sign colors that have

changed to symbols are most traffic signs, danger warning signs, priority signs,

and directions. The traffic light technology has advanced from basic moving 

gears to being computer programmed, and controlled with system detectors too.

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