|Location:||Reading, United States|
Pennsylvania-born Keith Haring moved to New York City as a young man to turn his artistic talents toward colorful graffiti art. Haring eventually moved into sculptures, becoming known as one of the leading pop and graffiti artists of the 1980s.
Keith Haring was an artistic child raised in a small town. He learned by reproducing the art he saw in cartoons and emulated the style of his cartoonist father. While Haring tried attending art school after graduating from high school, he dropped out after only two semesters and pursued his artistic endeavors independently. Once Haring attained critical success, he began using his popularity to fuel his advocacy. He often used his public works as a platform for his social causes, and he was particularly devoted to raising awareness about AIDS, the condition that would eventually claim his life.
In 1978, Keith Haring moved to New York City and decided to try his hand at art school again. He enrolled at the School of Visual Arts, where he made many of the professional connections that would help him gain recognition for his work. Keith chose to focus on colorful graffiti with a powerful message, and he found particular inspiration in the dark tunnels of the New York City subway system. He began using abandoned advertising posters in the subway as canvases for his dynamic chalk drawings, including his famous Still Alive in 85. As Haring’s public works began to gain popularity, he became well known to other Graffiti artists, such as Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat and Haring shared a mutual admiration for each other’s work, because they both took considerable risks for their art. Haring frequently faced arrest and vandalism charges for his public works. The City Department of Parks later legitimized his work by preserving Crack is Wack, an unplanned mural intended to warn the public about drugs. While Haring’s primary medium was chalk, he eventually began to use his chalk drawings as inspiration for pop art sculptures. Haring always kept his sculptures simple; one of his sculptures, The Boxers, features two simple, comic-like figures punching each other, and following the same theme, Three Dancing Figures portrays three simple stick figure characters engaged in lively dance. Haring’s works played with movement, vibrant primary colors, and dimension to create a style that became iconic of the 1980s. Although the road to becoming a professional artist was not an easy one for Haring, he maintained a contagious spirit of enthusiasm throughout his short-lived career. Through bold colors and simple figures that Haring used in his work, he always tried to tell a story or raise awareness about a particular issue. As he became famous, the price for his original pieces skyrocketed. Always socially conscious, Haring decided to open a retail shop called the Pop Shop so that he could sell prints and other merchandise at a cost that made his art affordable for all.
- In 1976, Haring went on a cross-country hitchhiking trip for inspiration.
- In his early career, Haring would do between thirty and forty subway chalk drawings per day.
- In 1981, Haring held his first solo public art exhibition at the Westbeth Painters Space.