Most people know artworks because they are so frequently displayed in popular culture, whether they are from artists from the far past or even recent artists that grew in popularity only a few decades ago. In particular, pieces from artist Keith Haring continue to be seen throughout galleries, exhibits, and mainstream venues as tributes to the simpler things in life.
Born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, though most of his childhood was spent with his father in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It was during this time that Haring became fascinated with the cartoon artwork drawn by the likes of Walt Disney and Charles Schulz, mimicking their style with his own work at a young age. After graduating from high school in the mid-1970s, Haring decided to go to college for art at the Ivy School of Professional Art in the city of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, he only finished two semesters before dropping out and moving to New York City and eventually returned to college at the School of Visual Arts in the late 1970s.
Unlike others within the art scene throughout the 1970s, Keith Haring made the entire city his canvas by finding interest in graffiti and street art. He would bring chalk along with him and create doodles and drawings on subways, on buildings and everywhere he went. He predominately drew “simplistic” illustrations in a cartoon and graffiti crossover of dogs and children. He also started to collaborate with fellow street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to try and bring this artwork to the masses through nightclubs and other easily accessible venues.
As soon as the early 80s hit, Haring was considered a great success and hosted his first solo exhibit that included not only drawings, but also sculpture and installation. His unique take on the cartoon and graffiti style became ubiquitous with the 1980s and well into the 1990s, making him famous worldwide. He also utilized this stardom in order to become an activist against drug use and helping bring art to children. He created several anti-drug murals as well as personally holding workshops to help young artists hone their craft.
Tragedy struck at a young age for Keith Haring when he found out that he was diagnosed with AIDS. Regardless, this didn’t stop him from creating more artwork and putting together the Keith Haring Foundation in order to support fellow AIDS non-profits. Unfortunately, he died in 1990. However, Keith Haring lives on through his artwork and a store he opened that showcases and sells bags, t-shirts, posters and more with his artwork on them called Pop Shop in New York City.
May 1985, Keith Haring crouches down to paint a huge backdrop for the Palladium Club in New York City. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Bernard Gotfryd © Getty Images
Keith Haring’s Pop Shop. Photo by Charles Dolfi-Michels. Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation.