You are in Artists > Keith Haring
Died: 16th February 1990
Keith Haring was an artist and activist who often used his unique, cartoon-like vocabulary to address contemporary social issues, including the 1980s AIDS crisis and drug epidemic. The creator of an iconography that merged the secular and the spiritual, Haring was molded as an artist by his unusual childhood: a "Jesus freak" in his adolescent years, he became a hippie in his late teens, hitchhiking across the country and experimenting with drugs. Among his other major influences, Haring cited his father (an amateur cartoonist), Walt Disney, and the study of semiotics, in which signs and motifs take on symbolic meanings.
Haring moved to New York in the 1970s to study at the School of Visual Arts. Unsatisfied with the approach to teaching there, he dropped out and turned to drawing in New York City subway stations with white chalk--something he thought of as a performance. In his work, which eventually evolved to include spray-painted murals and paintings on canvas, he created bold line drawings of children, dogs, spaceships, and other friendly, immediately-recognizable subjects--often repeating the same character over and over, as with his iconic "Radiant Baby." "There are some images that I will only use once, and not use again because they don't seem to really hit the nail right on the head, but there are some which are so strong they have to be reduced," Haring said. "Sometimes just reusing them makes them stronger." As an openly gay artist who had contracted HIV, Haring geared much of his work to promoting safe sex while at the same time brightly depicting scenes of gay love. Working on public walls and subway signboards was a way to broadcast these images beyond the traditional art audience. "It made sense to draw on the street," explained Haring, "because I had something to say."
Haring's work was also informed by the East Village scene of the 1980s, through which he befriended Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat and frequented events with Yoko Ono and Boy George. The vibrancy and energy of this culture is reflected in Haring's aesthetic--bold, colorful, and full of life. Haring's tremendous success led to accusations of "selling out"--once, after he declined to pose in a group photo with other street artists, some actually tried to tar and feather him--but his work today is seen as instrumental in helping to blur the distinction between street art and high art, and his cheerful trademark style made him one of the most popular artists of his generation. Even after he began to succumb to HIV, Haring continued to produce works, often working on large-scale projects with inner-city kids; he also founded the Keith Haring Foundation to assist AIDS-related and children's charities. Haring died in 1990 at the age of 31, but his works continue to serve as a testament to the potential and power of art in effecting social change.
Watch a trailer for The Universe of Keith Haring [via silviagiulietti]:
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Techniques & Media: Design, Drawing, Mixed Media, Mural Art, Painting, Print, Sculpture
Inspirations & Key Themes: Cartoons, Death, HIV AIDS, Popular Culture, Religion, sexuality and erotic imagery, social issues
Influenced : HuskMitNavn (RememberMyName)
Influenced by : Jean Dubuffet , Andy Warhol
Worked with : Jenny Holzer , Yoko Ono