As a student at the School of Visual Arts, New York, in the late 1970s, Haring experimented with performance, video, installation and collage, while always maintaining a strong commitment to drawing. In 1980, Haring found a highly effective medium that allowed him to communicate with the wider audience he desired, when he noticed the unused advertising panels covered with matte black paper in a subway station. He began to create drawings in white chalk upon these blank paper panels throughout the subway system.
Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings in rapid rhythmic lines, sometimes creating as many as forty 'subway drawings' in one day. This seamless flow of images became familiar to New York commuters, who often would stop to engage the artist when they encountered him at work. The subway became, as Haring said, a 'laboratory' for working out his ideas and experimenting with his simple lines. His favorite subjects were dancing figures, barking dogs, a crawling child referred to as the 'radiant baby,' and other simple, outlined figures.
Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981. In 1982, he made his Soho gallery debut with an immensely popular and highly acclaimed one-man exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. During this period, he also participated in renowned international survey exhibitions such as Documenta 7 in Kassel; the S√£o Paulo Biennial; and the Whitney Biennial. Haring completed numerous public projects in the first half of the 80's as well, ranging from an animation for the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square, designing sets and backdrops for theaters and clubs, developing watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut vodka; and creating murals worldwide.
Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children's day care centers and orphanages. The now famous "Crack is Wack" mural of 1986 has become a landmark along New York's FDR Drive.
Beginning in 1985, Haring began to make three-dimensional sculptures of his favorite subjects in bold, primary colors. The sculptural figures were constructed in metal as two-dimensional cutouts, similar to his style of drawing, and then assembled like paper dolls to create three-dimensional objects.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up in Kutztown and was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied graphic design at The Ivy School of Professional Art, a commercial and fine art school in Pittsburgh. Keith later moved to New York City, where he was greatly inspired by the graffiti art, and additionally studied at the School of Visual Arts. Haring was openly gay. Haring died of AIDS related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. A memorial service was held on May 4, 1990 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with over 1,000 people in attendance.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
Works in the Exhibition:
UNTITLED (FIGURE BALANCING ON A DOG), 1986
Painted steel, 144 x 122 x 122 inches
UNTITLED (THREE DANCING FIGURES), 1989
Painted aluminum, 120 x 168 x 120 inches
UNTITLED (TWO DANCING FIGURES), 1989
Painted aluminum, 120 x 155 x 113 inches
Lever House Art Collection, New York