Keith Haring at Pop Shop, 1986. Photograph by Charles Dolfi-Michel
Today marks the 27th anniversary of Keith Haring's death, who rose to popularity with his significant contribution to pop and graffiti art, and his powerful efforts as a social acitivist before his unfotunate passing caused by AIDS. His artistic predispositions were evident since early years as he continuously illustrated characters and storylines, inspired by his father's cartoons. Despite later enrolling at a commercial art school, he sensed a "separation between cartooning and being an 'artist'" and eventually left the school to hitchhike across the country and become involved with the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center, who also held his first solo show. That time also marked the artist's discovery of works by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Pierre Alechinsky and Christo, and the onset of his characteristic style, with Haring beginning to experiment with small, interconnected abstract shapes.
Keith Haring, Untitled, 1986, enamel paint and acrylic on canvas tarp
Keith Haring made his way to New York in late 1970s, where he took up studies at the School of Visual Arts and came to recognition of the public and fellow artists through his illustrative grafitti murals he covered urban spaces with, and which, to artist's surprise, would later be stolen within hours of their creation as Haring's popularity escalated. One of the most iconic murals, Crack is Wack (1986) still surprises drivers passing through Manhattan's FDR to this day.
Keith Haring, Pisa Mural, 1989
The artist shortly became immersed in the vibrant movement taking over New York at the time, with Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura 2000 and other contemporaries amongst his closest acquaintances. His fruitful years in New York involved frequent collaborations with other artists and Haring experimenting with a wide range of techniques and disciplines, spanning across painting, performance art, sculpture and collage.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Grace Jones (Painted by Keith Haring), 1984, gelatin silver print