Keith Haring, Biography
Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an American artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s by expressing concepts of birth, death, sexuality, and war.
Haring’s work was often heavily political and his imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.
Haring’s work very clearly demonstrates many important political and personal influences. Ideas about his sexual orientation are apparent throughout his work and his journals clearly confirm its impact on his work. Heavy symbolism speaking about the AIDS epidemic is vivid in his later pieces, such as Untitled (cat. no. 27), Silence=Death and his sketch Weeping Woman. In some of his works—including cat. no. 27—the symbolism is subtle, but Haring also produced some blatantly activist works. Silence=Death is almost universally agreed upon as a work of HIV/AIDS activism.
Haring contributed to the New York New Wave display in 1981 and in 1982, and had his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. That same year, he took part in Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany, as well as Public Art Fund’s “Messages to the Public” in which he created work for a Spectacolor Board in Times Square. He contributed work to the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the São Paulo Biennial. In 1985, the CAPC in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of his works, and took part in the Paris Biennial.
Since his death Haring has been the subject of several international retrospectives. His art was the subject of a 1997 retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York, curated by Elisabeth Sussman. In 1996, a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia was the first major exhibition of his work in Australia. In 2008 there was a retrospective exhibition at the MAC in Lyon, France. In February 2010, on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the artist’s death, Tony Shafrazi Gallery showed an exhibition containing dozens of works from every stage of Haring’s mature work. In March 2012, a retrospective exhibit of Haring’s work, Keith Haring: 1978-1982, opened at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. In April 2013, Keith Haring: The Political Line opened at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Le Cent Quatre In November 2014, then at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, California.