Thursday, August 6, 2009
Who's that Queer?
Keith Haring was born May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was raised in the nearby town of Kutztown. At an early age, Haring developed a love for drawing, and was influenced by his father’s cartoonist skills and the popular culture images created by Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney.
In 1978, Haring had his first solo exhibition and later in the same year, moved to New York City where he enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Haring was introduced to a community of artists that was developing in the city streets and subway stations. During this time, Haring became increasingly influenced by graffiti art and immersed himself among other musicians, performance artists, and graffiti writers including Jean-Michel Basquiat.
As a student at SVA , Haring experimented with a variety of mediums and tied his hand at performance, video, and installation art while always maintaining a commitment to drawing. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring utilized the unused advertising panels that lined the walls of the New York City subway stations. These panels, covered in black paper offered Haring a forum to reach a wider audience. Haring referred to the subway stations as his “laboratory”, where he would create as many as 40 paintings in a single day.
In April 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images. The shop was intended to allow people greater access to his work, which was now readily available on products at a low cost. The shop received criticism from many in the art world, however Haring remained committed to his desire to make his artwork available to as wide an audience as possible, and received strong support for his project from friends, fans and mentors including Andy Warhol.
Throughout his career, Haring produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages. By then, his work had begun to reflect more socio-political themes, such as anti-Apartheid, AIDS awareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic.
Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. Soon after, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.
In June 1989, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio in Pisa, he painted the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo." Haring died in 1990 of AIDS- related complications. During a brief but intense career that spanned the 1980s, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.
Sources: Wikipedia, www.haring.com
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