Keith Haring

Keith Haring was born in 1958 and grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania with his parents and three younger sisters. His father Allen Haring was a cartoonist and inspired him. When Keith was 17 he studied at Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh. He got tired of commercial art and went on to study fine arts in New York and got inspired by graffiti art.
His first work that got the attention in New York was his public art painted in the subways. It was popart as graffiti. It was at this time that his work “The Radiant Baby” became symbolic of the artist and expresses messages of life and unity. In 1980 he organized shows in New York City’s Club 57 and for the first time started drawing animals and human faces. He also pasted provocative collages around the city made from cut up and reassembled headlines from the New York Post.

In 1982 having become a well known activist-artist he formed friendships with people like Madonna, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Between 1982 and 1989 he had over 50 public works in many countries around the world. In 1986, he created his famous mural “Crack is Wack” on a handball court in East Harlem. In the same year he met Andy Warhol who became the theme of many works including "Andy Mouse". These relationships particularly with Andy Warhol proved to be a strong factor in his future success.
In Melbourne and Sydney Australia in 1984 he painted murals based on his own drug addiction. He painted in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Paris and Minneapolis and Manhattan. Madonna used a Haring-designed jacket for her performance of “Like a Virgin” on the TV Show "Solid Gold".
In 1985 he started to paint on canvas instead of buildings and walls. He painted the set on TV show "Guest VJ Special" hosted by Nick Rhodes from duran duran. But still painted on murals as well in Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin. He also did body painting on Grace Jones for her music video “I’m not Perfect”.

Keith opened up a retail store in SOHO called Pop Shop and his themes became more socio-political including anti-apartheid, AIDS awareness and the crack cocaine epidemic. This work sometimes featured influences of commercial brands such as Absolut vodka, Lucky Strike cigarettes and Coca-Cola to move into the more traditional popart genre.
In 1988 Keith was diagnosed with AIDS and established his own Keith Haring Foundation a year later. The purpose of his foundation was to promote his work through art shows, publications and other merchandise as well as provide funding for and awareness of AIDS. In that same year the Lesbian and Gay Services Center asked him to be a part of a showing at their building in New York City. He painted the mural “Once Upon a Time” in the second floor men’s room of the LBGT Community Center in New York City. The mural covers the walls of the entire room and is drawn with the figures outlined in black against the white walls.
He painted his last work the mural “Tuttomondo (The Whole World)” on a wall at the Church of Sant’Antonio in Pisa (Italy) in 1989. The theme of this work is peace and harmony in the world and features 30 human figures. Each of the figures represents a different aspect of peace. Keith died of complications from AIDS on February 16, 1990 at the age of 32. He lived as an activist and artist with work about birth, death, sex and war. He was openly gay at a time most non-heterosexuals had to hide their sexual preference.

Animation for US Sesame Street titled "TV Dog".


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