Keith Haring: Public Displays of Affection From a Pop Artist
Today marks the 54th birthday of Keith Haring (1958-1990), whose art was reflective of the zeitgeist of urban America in the 80s, with its boundless energy, distinctive dance music, and graffitied expressions sprayed along the public landscapes.
Producing hundreds of drawings on the streets and in the subways, Haring is most identified with his iconic cartoon-line figures—which includes the standing figure, dog, and crawling baby—adorned with radiating lines that expressed movement and energy. Inspired by his artist friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, Haring was devoted to producing art for the masses.
In collaboration with the show's curator, Raphaela Platow, and the Brooklyn Museum—which is currently exploring Haring’s earlier works in its exhibition Keith Haring: 1978-1982—Biography.com would like to honor the pop artist by taking a look at five interesting things about his personal and professional life you may not have known:
He was sketchy:
Haring wrote in his journal daily and developed his art in his sketchbooks. His entries revealed his fascination with codes of all sorts—Morse code, numerical systems, Egyptian hieroglyphs, alphabets, stenography, etc.—as a way of conveying information.
He killed his own video star:
Between 1978-1982, Haring made many videos of himself creating drawings set to music, of word games and phonetics, and of performances by his friends. However, he suddenly abandoned the medium in the early 80s.
He liked to mix things up:
An avid music lover and dancer, Haring always had tunes playing in his studio. He owned thousands of mixed tapes, which included disco, new wave, hip-hop, and punk.
He was a critic of consumerism:
Haring was disheartened by the passive, mind-numbing messages that television and advertisements pushed onto consumers.
He was fascinated with child’s play:
Inspired by Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga, Haring wanted to create a playground for children as a testament to the cultural and social importance of play. However, the playground project never materialized due to Haring’s early death at 31 from AIDS-related complications.
Photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.