Sleeve tattoo inspired by Keith Haring artwork.

Sleeve tattoo inspired by Keith Haring artwork

Keith Haring Early work

Haring achieved his first public attention with public art in subways. These were his first recognized pieces of pop art. The exhibitions were filmed by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around this time, "The Radiant Baby" became his symbol. His bold lines, vivid colors, and active figures carry strong messages of life and unity. Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions in Club 57. He participated in the Times Square Exhibition and drew, for the first time, animals and human faces. That same year, he photocopied and pasted around the city provocative collages made from cut-up and recombined New York Post headlines.In 1981 he sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic, metal and found objects.
By 1982, Haring established friendships with fellow emerging artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Haring created more than 50 public works between 1982 and 1989 in dozens of cities around the world. His "Crack is Wack" mural, created in 1986, is visible from New York's FDR Drive.He got to know Andy Warhol, who was the theme of several of Haring's pieces including "Andy Mouse." His friendship with Warhol would prove to be a decisive element in his eventual success, particularly after their deaths.
In December 2007, an area of the American Textile Building in the Tribe Ca neighborhood of New York City was discovered to contain a painting of Haring's from 1979.

International breakthrough

Tuttomondo, Pisa
In 1984, Haring visited Australia and painted wall murals in Melbourne (such as the 1984 'Detail-Mural at Colling wood College, Victoria') and Sydney and received a commission from the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Center for Contemporary Art to create a mural which temporarily replaced the water curtain at the National Gallery.He also visited and painted in Rio de Janeiro, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis and Manhattan. He even designed a jacket worn by a pink-wigged Madonna for a performance of her song "Like a Virgin" for the TV dance program Solid Gold.
When asked about the commercialism of his work, Haring said: "I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art." By the arrival of Pop Shop, his work began reflecting more socio-political themes, such as anti-Apartheid, AIDS awareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic. He even created several pop art pieces influenced by other products: Absolut Vodka, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. In 1987 he had his own exhibitions in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others. He also designed the cover for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, on which Madonna was included. In 1988 he joined a select group of artists whose work has appeared on the label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine.
Haring also created public murals in the lobby and ambulatory care department of Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center on Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn.
A rare video of Haring at work shows his energetic style. Haring wrote: "I am becoming much more aware of movement. The importance of movement is intensified when a painting becomes a performance. The performance (the act of painting) becomes as important as the resulting painting."
Haring was openly gay and was a strong advocate of safe sex; however, in 1988, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children's programs, and to expand the audience for Haring's work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. In 1989, at the invitation of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center to join a show of site-specific artwork for the building, at 208 West 13th Street, Haring chose the second-floor men's room for his mural Once Upon a Time. In June, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio (in Italian: Chiesa di Sant'Antonio abate) in Pisa (Italy), he painted the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo" (translation: "the whole world").