Today’s Google Doodle is inspired by artist and activist Keith Haring. His graffiti artwork is instantly recognizable as a pop culture icon of the 80’s.
May 4th marks the birthday of the late artist who died in 1990 at the age of 31 from complications due to AIDS. He was a native of Reading, Pennsylvania, but moved to New York as a young man to pursue his art career. Early in life, he was inspired to draw by his cartoonist father and popular icons like Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney. Originally enrolling at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburg, he dropped out after only two semesters. He had little interest in being a commercial graphic artist, but he did continue to study art on his own.
In the same year, he moved to New York. It was there he discovered the alternative art scene, staging exhibitions in streets, subways, clubs and dance halls. He was known for drawing in chalk on unused advertising panels in subway stations, sometimes drawing as many as forty sketches a day. Completing hundreds of these sketches from 1980 to 1985, his work became a staple for New York commuters, who would engage him while he worked.
This work helped bring him into the mainstream, and by 1986 he opened a store in SoHo that sold t-shirts, poster, magnets and other household items that featured his work. He was often criticized by other artists for this commercialization, but for Haring, his goal was to make his work accessible to everyone. Billing himself as a public artist, he became highly sought after, doing collaborations with artists like Madonna, Grace Jones, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol.
Towards the end of his life, Haring became increasingly involved in activism, contributing artwork to hospitals and children’s organizations. In 1989, a year before his death, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation, which contributes to AIDS education and outreach.
The Brooklyn Museum is currently curating an exhibition of his work titled Keith Haring 1978-1982. It will be the largest full scale exhibition of his work, including videos sketchbooks, 155 works on paper and 150 archival objects.