Artist: Keith Haring
Edition size: Open edition book
Medium & Dimensions: Hardcover, 21 x 26 cm, 96 pages
Keith Haring spent little more than a decade in the spotlight, but in his singular blend of street art, graffiti, a Pop sensibility, and cartoon elements, he created stalwarts of modern pop culture as much as vivid social and political statements. From his first subway drawings through to his Pop Shop in SoHo, this concise introduction explores Haring’s innovation and activism at the heart of the 1980s New York art scene.
One of the key figures in the New York art world of the 1980s, Keith Haring (1958–1990) created a signature style that blended street art, graffiti, a Pop sensibility, and cartoon elements to unique, memorable effect. With thick black outlines, bright colors, and kinetic figures, his public (and occasionally illegal) interventions, sculptures, and works on canvas and paper have become instantly recognizable icons of 20th-century visual culture.
From his first chalk drawings in the New York City subway stations, to his renowned “Radiant Baby” symbol, and his commissions for Swatch Watch and Absolut Vodka, Haring’s work was both emblematic of the manic work ethic of 1980s New York, yet distinctive for its social awareness. Belying their bright, playful aesthetics, his pieces often tackled intensely controversial socio-political issues, including racism, capitalism, religious fundamentalism, and the increasing impact of AIDS on New York’s gay community, the latter foreshadowing his own death from the disease in 1990.
In this vivid introduction to Haring’s work, we explore the dynamic life and innovative spirit of this singular artist, who spent little more than a decade in the spotlight, but through the accessibility of his visual vocabulary and the strength of his political commitment became one of the most significant artists to emerge from New York’s vibrant, downtown community.
Alexandra Kolossa studied art history, German literature, and business administration in Trier. She earned her doctorate in 2003. Since 1998 she has been a freelance author and contemporary art exhibition curator. She lives and works in Düren, Germany.
American, 1958–1990, Reading, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York
Bridging the gap between the art world and the street, Keith Haring rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his graffiti drawings made in the subways and on the sidewalks of New York City. Combining the appeal of cartoons with the raw energy of Art Brut artists like Jean DuBuffet, 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 subway 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. Alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Jenny Holzer, Haring is regarded as a leading figure in New York East Village Art scene in the 1970s and '80s.