Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keith Haring

Tragicomedy; or, the world according to Haring

By the time of his death from AIDS at the age of 31, Keith Haring (1958-1990) was already a wildly successful and popular artist. Haring`s original and instantly recognizable style, full of thick black lines, bold colors, and graffiti-inspired cartoon-like figures, won him the appreciation of both the art world and the general public; his work appeared simultaneously on T-shirts, gallery walls, and public murals. In 1986, Haring founded Pop Shop, a boutique in New York`s SoHo selling Haring-designed memorabilia, to benefit charities and help bring his work closer to the public and especially street kids, with whom he never lost contact.

simple, symbol-like drawings of dogs, babies, and dancing figures brought him international acclaim in the 1980s. He became interested in the look of the hard-edged black lines he saw in graffiti on subways and subsequently befriended a number of so-called graffiti kids, including Haitian-American Jean-Michel Basquiat, a young graffiti artist whose work was gaining acceptance in local galleries. In 1979 Haring cut up newspapers and reassembled them to create fake headlines, such as “Reagan Slain by Hero Cop,” then posted them around the city as handbills. In 1980 Haring began creating real graffiti in subways and elsewhere, using images such as a barking dog, flying saucers emitting lightning bolts, and his so-called radiant baby, a faceless baby surrounded by radiating lines, which became his signature. These images were drawn either in thick black marking pen or in white chalk on the black advertising boards of subway stations. While these efforts made Haring famous, he also was arrested repeatedly for criminal mischief. Meanwhile, Haring also created work for upscale galleries. His 1982 show at the prestigious Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York City was an enormous success and effectively launched his career.

Haring's work is informed by diverse sources, including the popular appeal of American artist Andy Warholpop art movement; the rhythm and movements in African, Cuban, and hip-hop dancing; and Afro-Cuban body painting. In 1987 Haring painted his characteristically high-contrast lines and symbols all over his own naked body, which he then had photographed in New York City's Times Square. He also decorated the bodies of American performer Grace Jones and American modern dancer Bill T. Jones. His bright, attention getting murals have decorated walls in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Some of these works survive (for example, on a wall of the Stedelijk Museum warehouse in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1986) but many have been destroyed (such as that on a section of the Berlin Wall in Germany, 1986). In 1986, in a gesture against elitism, Haring opened Pop Shop in New York City, a store selling souvenirs of his creations. Haring's energetic, whimsical drawings appeared on items ranging from T-shirts to a blimp (1989). and others in the