Keith Haring (Pennsylvania, 1958 - 1990, New York City) joined a long but sporadic lineage of twentieth century artists who brought elements of popular culture, "low art" and non-art elements into the formerly exclusive "high art" spaces of museums and galleries. He drew based on the techniques and locales of street-based art such as graffiti and murals, employed bright and artificial colors, and kept imagery accessible in order to grab the eyes and minds of viewers and get them both to enjoy themselves and to engage with important concerns. Along with his artist contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, Haring opened the field of possibility for how seemingly simple and even cartoony elements by self-taught or less-schooled artists might be appreciated.
Combining the appeal of cartoons with the raw energy of Art Brut artists, Haring developed a distinct pop-graffiti aesthetic centered on fluid, bold outlines against a dense, rhythmic overspread of imagery like that of babies, barking dogs, flying saucers, hearts, and Mickey Mouse. In his drawings and murals, Haring explored themes of exploitation, subjugation, drug abuse, and rising fears of nuclear holocaust, which became increasingly apocalyptic after his AIDS diagnosis.
Haring contributed to the New York New Wave display in 1981 and in 1982, and had his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. That same year, he took part in Documenta VII in Kassel, Germany, as well as Public Art Fund's "Messages to the Public" in which he created work for a Spectacolor Board in Times Square. He contributed work to the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the São Paulo Biennial. In 1985, the CAPC in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of his works, and took part in the Paris Biennial.
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