Keith Haring was an American artist and social activist known for his illustrative depictions of figures and symbols. He is another example of our theme this year, of contemporary artists that put a new face on ancient cultures. His work has elements of cave paintings, Aboriginal art, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics.Born on May 4, 1958, in Reading, PA, he was inspired to draw from an early age by his father, an engineer and amateur cartoonist. After briefly studying commercial art in Pittsburgh, he moved to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts and soon immersed himself in the city’s graffiti culture. When Haring arrived in New York, it was home to a thriving underground art scene. Haring and other artists organized exhibitions at downtown nightclubs and other alternative locations, where art, music, and fashion all came together in a dynamic mix. Beyond the clubs, Haring began using the city as his canvas. Riding the subway, he noticed the black paper rectangles of empty advertising panels on station walls; using white chalk, he began filling these black panels with simple, quickly drawn pictures. Haring soon began to apply his recognizable imagery to freestanding drawings and paintings. The energy and optimism of the images, with their bold lines and bright colors, brought him popularity with a wide audience. His art, with its simple style and it's deeper universal themes of love, death, war, and social harmony was eventually seen everywhere from public murals and nightclubs to galleries and museums around the world. He continues in popularity and in addition to being one of the most prolifically reproduced pop icons, his art can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
Haring’s prodigious career was brief. He died of AIDS-related complications on February 16, 1990, at the age of 31. He was one of the first to call for awareness and activism. During his life, he conducted art workshops for schools, created art for public service agencies, and produced murals, sculptures, and paintings to benefit health centers and disadvantaged communities. In 1989, Haring established a foundation to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue indefinitely. His legacy has had a far-reaching ripple effect, and the list of grants that have been awarded annually is truly impressive. He was a great example of " the power of one" .