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Keith Haring Artist Biography

Keith Haring was probably one of the first people to try and break down the barrier between the emerging graffiti/street art and the world of high art. His comic book stylised figures in bright 80's day- glow colours came off the walls of New York City and into the galleries and museums of the world. His images belie their simple appearance and often contain highly politicised messages, like his 1986 wall painting "Crack is Wack". Keith Haring was born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the nearby town of Kutztown. He developed a love for drawing at a very early age and learnt cartooning skills from his father and from copying popular culture around him, such as Dr Seuss and Walt Disney. After graduating from high school in 1976, Haring enrolled in a commercial arts school in Pittsburgh. He soon realized that he had little interest in becoming a commercial graphic artist and he dropped out after two semesters. However, he continued to work on his own art and in 1978 he had a solo exhibition at the Pittsburgh Arts and Craft Center. Later that year he moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts. In New York Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum institutions, in the down town streets, subways, and clubs. He became swept up in the spirit of the scene, becoming friends with fellow artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers. He began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and other alternative venues, like Mudd College. As a student Haring discovered an effective new medium that allowed him to communicate with the wider audience he desired, when he noticed the unused advertising panels covered with matte black paper in a subway station. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of public chalk drawings in the New York City subways. He could create as many as forty subway drawings in a single day. It became, Haring said, a "laboratory" for creative experimentation. The rapid rhythmic lines became familiar to New York commuters who would often engage with Haring when they encountered him at work. Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition, participating in numerous group and solo exhibitions. He completed many public projects in the first half of the 80's, ranging from an animation for a Times Square billboard, set designs, watch designs for Swatch, an advertising campaign for Absolut vodka and numerous murals around the world. In 1986 Haring opened his infamous "Pop Shop" in SoHo, a shop that sold T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images. He considered the shop an extension of his work and painted the entire interior in an abstract black non white mural. Many people in the art world criticized Haring for being too commercial but he explained, "I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price/ My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art". He remained committed to his desire to make his artwork available to as wide an audience as possible, and received strong support from friends and fans including Andy Warhol. In 1988 Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. The following year he established the Keith Haring Foundation to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children's programs. He died of AIDS related complications at the age of 31 on February 16th, 1990. Over 1,000 people attend his memorial service. Madonna declared the first New York date of her "Blond Ambition World Tour" a benefit concert for Haring's memory and donated all of the proceeds from her ticket sales to AIDS charities. Keith Haring's New York Times obituary observed, "His art adorned discotheques like the Palladium in Manhattan, MTV set decorations, a backdrop for a 1985 hunger-relief concert in Philadelphia, walls on the Lower East Side and props for various modern-dance works. His prodigious and far-flung works could also be seen in such disparate settings as Australian museums, Brazilian fishermen's houses and a Swiss department store". In his short career Keith Haring featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions. According to the Keith Haring Foundation, in 1986 alone, he was the subject of more than 40 newspaper and magazine articles. His work continues to be exhibited worldwide, with many pieces being owned by prestigious museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France."Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further". (Keith Haring)

More art prints from Keith Haring

Untitled, 1982 (mermaid with dolphin) by Keith Haring
Untitled By Keith Haring
Growing, 1988 by Keith Haring
Untitled, 1981 (TV) by Keith Haring
Untitled, 1982 (dogs with UFOs) by Keith Haring
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