Biography (1958 - 90)
01.12.11: Iconic American Artist
Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1958. In 1978 he moved to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he made his mark with graffiti-inspired large-scale images. He worked with street artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat during his early years in New York. His cartoonlike stick figures made him a huge star in American art during the 1980s, when he was exhibiting and working on projects throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 1986 the artist opened his own retail outlet, The Pop Shop, in New York, and engaged in projects of an extraordinarily diverse nature, from murals on the Berlin Wall to paintings on hot air balloons, motorcars, and decorative accessories. A giant "spectacolor" billboard broadcast his famous Radiant Child image in Times Square, first in 1982. He died of AIDS in 1990.
The New York Times detailed a "meteoric career" that was built around a "cartoonish universe inhabited by crawling children, barking dogs and dancing figures, all set in motion by staccatolike lines."
01.12.11: BIOG. II
An alarmed stick figure (below), reminiscent of those found on street-crossing signs and bathroom doors, serves as a hoop for a pack of spotted dogs. Painted in an engagingly cartoonish style with bright, wet-look paint on a vinyl tarpaulin, this early work of Haring's means nothing more than what it conveys: pure exuberance.
Haring employed his crowd-pleasing style in the service of political causes and to support the fight against AIDS, the disease that eventually took his life.
He was part of a Pop renaissance in the 1980s that included artists such as Kenny Scharf and Basquiat, and which was allied with break dancing and hip hop music. Haring began as a graffiti "tagger," drawing his trademark figures on empty advertising boards in the New York City subway. Haring wanted his art to be accessible to all: His Pop Shop in New York City still sells t-shirts, posters, and other affordable goods featuring his much-loved designs.
Vinyl ink on vinyl tarpaulin
h144 x w144 in. approx.. h365.8 x w365.8 cm
Collection of Tony Shafrazi
01.12.11: BIOG. III (A LIFE IN THREE SENTENCES)
Keith Haring came to New York in 1978 to attend art school. Inspired by the graffiti artists he first entered public awareness via the drawings he executed on blank advertising panels in the subway. Haring died leaving a thriving legacy.
Images © Estate of Keith Haring