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Who was Keith Haring?

News18test sharma, |

Updated: May 4, 2012, 1:11 PM IST
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Who was Keith Haring?
The deeply personal documentary of Haring, titled 'The Universe of Keith Haring' provides rare into his life.

New Delhi: Keith Haring died young of AIDS. The iconic figure of downtown New York art scene in the '80s, had by the age of 31, created some of the most lasting images of the late 20th century art. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Madonna, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. As Google pays homage to Haring on May 4 with a doodle, here is a biography of the talented artist collated by the international media over the last two decades.

The deeply personal documentary of Haring by Christina Clausen, titled 'The Universe of Keith Haring' provides rare glimpses into his life and work. Haring was an artist and social activist whose work reflected the New York City street culture in the 1980s. He developed a love for drawing at a very small age. He learned basic cartooning skills from his father and the culture around him.
The Vanity Fair writes in an article dated July 1997: "Keith arrived in 1978 with a few basics: a certainty about making himself an artist, uncertainty about everything else - and a lively shot of talent."

"Before more than a few years had passed, he had established a reputation as an up-and-comer in a scene where the newest urgent ambition was "to mix things up." A budding synergy-of visual art forms, music, film, and performance combined with a need to incorporate the textures and politics of real life was shaking out old postures and dried-up intellectualized expectations; Haring had neither. But by the early 80s he had all kinds of friends in the art hoods and on the dance floor; one was the ambitious, not-so-blonde Madonna, who shared what a friend called his Jungle Fever."

The Keith Haring website archives his early days in the city including how he befriended the media. "According to club owner and DJ Johnny Dynell, who worked with Madonna when she was a coat-check girl at Danceteria in the early 80s, she and Keith always clicked. Haring would get boys from Madonna," the article said.
Haring hang out with Yoko, Princess Caroline, Timothy Leary and William Burroughs. In 1990, at the age of 31, he died of AIDS, leaving more art than most octogenarians. In his vast, multifaceted body of work, you can see one still-rarely-represented chapter of our very modern times.

Julia Gruen, who worked with Haring for six years and who now runs the Keith Haring Foundation, said: "This is what differentiates Keith from the other artists; he incorporated so much of what was going on day to day in his life, and in all of our lives."

It is easy to relate this doodle to Keith Haring as he was an artist and social activist whose work reflected the New York City street culture in the 1980s.
From 1976 to 1978 he studied commercial art, but he soon lost interest and moved to study Fine Arts. Later, he moved to New York City and enrolled hmself in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved recognition at international level and took part in numerous exhibitions. Throughout his career, he devoted a lot of time to public works, which often carried social messages.

In 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation with a view to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organisations and children's programs, and also to expand the audience for his work through expositions. Haring died at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. Keith's work can be seen in the exhibitions and collections of major museums around the globe.

By the late 80s Andy Warhol had already appeared on the scene. Vanity Fair writes: "Both had the audacity to be informal and casual-seeming about art, which misled critics already determined to find them frivolous. Both were gay and - perhaps, at some level, because of that - had an extra drive to be anointed as popular and famous. Haring didn't have Warhol's range, or complexity, or genius at getting under the skin of the culture. But one could say that Haring became a sort of mini-Warhol and, in one way, went beyond his idol."

"By the start of the decade, he'd forged an entirely fresh aesthetic, with roots in punk, hip-hop and the late 70s craze for street graffiti, which thrived in the subways of the Lower East Side, The Bronx and upper Manhattan. During his short career, his jellybean-like doodles in unapologetically garish colors would become familiar on posters, T-shirts, even mugs and key-rings. Such apparently throwaway work has sometimes blinded people to its political content," The Guardian wrote in 2003.

First Published: May 4, 2012, 1:11 PM IST
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