From Subway Stations to The Blade: The Joyful and Thought-Provoking Art of Keith Haring
If any of you have taken a stroll around our new office, you will have noticed the bold and playful prints that brighten up our walls. They are all the work of American pop-artist Keith Haring. Many of you will be familiar with his work but for those who are not, here’s a quick look at his life and works…
Keith Haring was an iconic American artist, renowned for his bold and bright public artworks that incorporated universal symbols and themes. Born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring’s interest in art started at a young age. As a child, he would often draw and create sculptures, displaying a natural talent for the arts. However, it wasn’t until he moved to New York City in 1978 that Haring began to take his passion seriously.
Haring’s early years in New York City were spent studying at the School of Visual Arts. During this time, he immersed himself in the city’s vibrant street culture, frequenting underground clubs and meeting other young artists who would go on to become influential figures in the art world. It was during this period that Haring began to experiment with different mediums, from painting to sculpture, printmaking to video.
Haring was heavily influenced by the graffiti and street art that he saw around New York City in the 1980s. He often incorporated elements of this style into his own work, creating bold, graphic images that were both highly visible and highly accessible.
Haring’s big break came in 1980 when he was invited to participate in an exhibition at the Club 57, a now-legendary East Village nightclub. Here, Haring’s work caught the attention of other artists and curators, and his career quickly took off. Over the next decade, Haring became one of the most recognizable and celebrated artists of his generation, creating bold, colourful, and often controversial public artworks that tackled issues of race, sexuality, and social justice.
He was a prolific collaborator, often working with other artists, musicians, and designers on a variety of projects. He created album covers for musicians like David Bowie and RUN-DMC, and even designed a line of clothing for the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
One of Haring’s most iconic works is the “Crack is Wack” mural, which he painted on the handball court in New York’s East Harlem neighbourhood in 1986. The mural, which features a brightly coloured serpent and a warning against drug use, quickly became a symbol of the city’s fight against the crack epidemic. The mural still stands today and has been restored several times over the years.
Another famous Haring work is the “Radiant Baby” image, which he first created in 1981. The image, which features a crawling infant with rays emanating from its head, quickly became a symbol of hope and optimism in the face of the AIDS epidemic that was ravaging the city at the time. Haring created countless variations of the “Radiant Baby” throughout his career, using it in everything from murals to t-shirts to skateboards.
Tragically, Haring’s life was cut short when he passed away in 1990 at the age of just 31. He had been diagnosed with AIDS several years earlier, and had spent much of his final years using his platform to raise awareness about the disease and fight for better treatment and care. Today, Haring’s legacy lives on through his artworks, which continue to inspire and challenge audiences around the world and serve as a powerful reminder of the power of art to effect social change.