Keith Haring was an artist whose pop art graffiti-like painting, initially on the black paper used to cover discontinued billboard advertisements in the New York subway. They often appeared as spontaneous drawings in new york city subways with chalk outlines. After a feverish 1980’s style career of surging popular success and grudging critical attention, Haring died of AIDS February 16 1990, at 31.
Art is for Everyone
Moving to New York and Early Years
Keith Haring artwork was vibrant and energetic and left an indelible mark on the art world. He found his artistic home in the bustling streets of New York City. Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, Haring’s journey to artistic stardom began when he boldly moved to the Big Apple in 1978. This move would be a pivotal moment in his life, propelling him towards international recognition and artistic immortality.
School of Visual Arts and Collaboration with Basquiat
After settling in New York, Haring enrolled at the School of Visual Arts, where he honed his skills and developed his unique style. It was during this time that he crossed paths with another artistic prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two shared a friendship and collaborated on several occasions, solidifying their places as prominent figures within the art scene of the 1980s.
“Crack is Wack” Mural and Social Activism
In 1986, Haring famously created his iconic “Crack is Wack” mural. This powerful artwork served as a social commentary on the devastating impact of crack cocaine on communities. Located on a handball court at East 128th Street and 2nd Avenue in Harlem, the mural showcased Haring’s ability to use art for advocacy and change.
Radiant Baby and Symbolism
Haring’s work was characterized by bold lines, vivid colours, and distinctive figures, notably his signature “radiant baby.” This symbol, often depicted as a crawling child emitting rays of light, became synonymous with Haring’s art and represented hope, innocence, and the universal human spirit.
Haring and his subway drawing depicted demons as well as angels. He foresaw an apocalyptic catastrophe — his running monsters and whirling yet orderly lines, brilliantly composed, belong in our technological age. He was not a sentimentalist. He wrote of evil and greed.
The Japanese understood his work.
In Japan, his work was understood. The Japanese responded to it; he felt it was tied to their traditions of the ‘sign’ and the gesture and the concept of the ‘spirit of the line’ evident in Sumi painting and calligraphy.
Walker Art Center
As part of his artist residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. This mural was specifically made to celebrate the completion of Walker’s underground education centre. The artwork featured an orange and green colour scheme.
Although the original mural no longer exists, we have photographic and video documentation that captures its creation and appearance. These records serve as valuable historical references to commemorate Haring’s work during his residency at the Walker Art Center.
The mural was displayed and accessible to the public from its completion in 1984 until December 1985, allowing visitors to experience Haring’s vibrant and dynamic style firsthand. While the physical artwork is no longer present, its impact and legacy remain significant in the art world and the cultural history of the Walker Art Center.
Berlin Wall and Global Recognition
As Haring’s career flourished, he gained recognition not only for his art but also for his activism. In 1986, he travelled to Berlin and created a mural on the Berlin Wall, further solidifying his status as a global artist with a message. Haring’s ability to blend art, activism, and popular culture made him a powerful force in the fight against social and political injustices.
East Village and Club 57
Haring’s influence extended beyond his collaborations with Basquiat and his public artworks. He was an integral part of the vibrant art scene in New York’s East Village and a regular at Club 57, a legendary venue known for its innovative performances and avant-garde exhibitions. Haring’s presence in this artistic melting pot allowed him to connect with other creative minds, such as Kenny Scharf, further enriching his artistic journey.
High and Low Art
What American museum curators initially could not see was Haring’s employment of high and low art. His barking dogs are a classic example of this. Haring understood clearly that the information age and the camera had blurred the boundaries between high and low art. Haring maintained a friendship with Andy Warhol. Haring provided Warhol access to the alternative scene, which Warhol exploited as a source of inspiration. Haring created the figure of Andy Mouse, based on Mickey Mouse, in 1985. The background is reminiscent of the Stars and Stripes, and the motif of Andy Mouse is supplemented by dollar signs in the ears of the mouse. By combining the Walt Disney product with the Andy Warhol product, Haring accords his friend the same iconic status.
Since a few seasons ago, the Parisian brand Études has used Haring graphics in its work, just before Watanabe in Japan. The creative directors of Études, Aurélien Arbet and Jérémie Egry dug deeper into New York’s New Wave than just its hip-hop music and Kryolan spray cans found on the street. In the 1980s, Haring was a strong voice because of his work on Aids awareness, apartheid, and crack addiction. Somewhere Downtown, a new show at UCCA in Beijing looks at his place in the chaotic city of New York when he first started making art. Chaos and Hope, Haring’s first show at the Nakamura gallery in Japan, is being shown again to mark the gallery’s 15th anniversary.
Keith Haring was a big part of André Heller’s book Luna Luna, about an art theme park in Hamburg in the 1980s. The New York Public Library has more than 100 books with his work in its collection. He wanted his work seen by many people for as long as possible. His work in fashion was an essential part of his plan. Malcolm McLaren was the first to put Keith Haring’s art on the runway. He used it to package his Duck Rock album. Gil Vazquez is glad that Dijon went back to the early archives. She works with HIV and AIDS awareness charities, and black transwomen are some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Haring’s collection with Dijon is still for sale online at places like Farfetch and resale sites, and Basquiat’s art was used in her most recent collection.
Keith Haring was one of the first artists to make art products that people could wear, collect, and buy for a low price. Haring opened the Pop Shop on Lafayette Street to sell clothes, jewellery, toys, and posters. Many people who came to New York would make a point of going there. Haring worked with Artestar’s founder, David Stark. The Valentine’s Day deals at Primark are different from Honey’s story about the clubland, and Stark has worked with Haring on more than 2,000 projects since 1989. His art is still a language we use today (Have We Reached Peak Keith Haring?, 2023).
Legacy and Untimely Death
Tragically, Haring’s life was cut short in 1990 when he succumbed to AIDS-related complications at the age of 31. His untimely death shook the art world, but his legacy lives on through his iconic works, which continue to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide.
Keith Haring’s art and artwork have made a significant impact on the art world. His ability to bridge the gap between high art and popular culture, combined with his unwavering commitment to social causes, cemented his status as a true artistic pioneer. Today, his art can be found in museums, galleries, and public spaces across the globe, a testament to the enduring power of his creative vision. Keith Haring’s radiant legacy lives on, reminding us of the transformative power of art and the importance of using our talents to make a positive difference in the world.
Have we reached peak Keith Haring? (2023, March 6). Have We Reached Peak Keith Haring? | Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/2605aa4c-780f-4dfe-aaf7-48b16d57ba9c
Kolossa, A., Haring, K. (2004). Haring. Germany: Taschen.
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