Keith haring was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He used art as a means to promote positivity and peace. His work packed messages that resonated with audiences across the world. According to Bio.com, American artist Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania (bio.com). He was best known for his graffiti-inspired drawings, which he first made in subway stations and later exhibited in museums (bio.com). As a young child, He was influenced by the artwork of Walt Disney and the illustrations of Dr.Seuss.(bio.com) His father also spent time drawing with him while growing up (bio.com). Haring moved to New York City to attend The School of Visual Arts. While at school, he befriended other newcomers to the art world that included: Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both of which shared the same love of color in their work as Haring.
Haring and his friends did not go about showing their work in a traditional sense.They thought outside of the box when choosing venues to showcase their new works of art. Haring and these other artists organized exhibitions at downtown nightclubs and other alternative locations, where art, music and fashion all came together in a dynamic mix (bio.com). Over some time, Haring's work began to be seen all over New York, whether it was on a subway, or on the sides of buildings. The energy and optimism of his art, with its bold lines and bright colors, brought him popularity with a wide audience. He had his first solo exhibition in 1981, at the Westbeth Painters Space in Manhattan (bio.com). Over the brief span of his career, the artist completed more than 50 public works, including the anti-drug mural Crack is Wack in a Harlem playground and an illuminated, animated billboard of his "Radiant Baby" image for New York's Times Square (bio.com) He also hosted numerous art workshops for children (bio.com). Keith Haring died in New York on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. He was 31 years old. Haring's art, with its deceptively simple style and its deeper themes of love, death, war and social harmony, continues to appeal strongly to viewers (bio.com).
This became one of Haring’s most talked about murals and still stands untouched till this day. In response to the epidemic that was sweeping across America, Haring simply states “Crack is Wack.” Crack was the silent killer at the time and it affected many households on a large scale. The effects of the drug was not only deadly, but traumatic for not only those on it- but the family and friends of those people also. Haring’s use of line to show movement is apparent in this piece.
The different body gestures, along with the various line weights evoke a feeling of implied movement. The piece is warm, with red representing death,fear and addiction. the piece has the same color throughout it which makes the mural flat. There is implied texture in the lettering. Those simple dots make the words pop out and actually pull them forward.
Haring is not afraid of space as he chooses to take up every part of his preferred canvas. He fills up the page with his cartoon-like characters in various poses that reflect whatever point he is trying to make. His position on the subject matter is always clear and he used his influence to get rather taboo subjects out into the mainstream.
One piece, in particular, was inspired by the rising number of H.I.V./ A.I.D.S. cases during that time. The disease ran rampant in the gay community due to lack of sex education and the use of condoms (avert.org). This piece promotes learning more information about the H.I.V./A.I.D.S. epidemic before casting judgement and educating yourself on how to not get the deadly disease. Movement can be found in the dashes around each character. The repetition of the lines around the characters also draws the viewer in. The space across the painting seems equal. The black text is bold up against the red, yellow and blue. The “x” in the middle of each figure The characters also seem to be representing “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” which is noteworthy and perfectly matches the message Haring is trying to display. The public was terrified of the disease and believed that it could never effect them. No one was safe from acquiring the virus.
In one piece, Haring decides to use a triadic color scheme (red, yellow, blue) with the yellow being the color to come forward from the painting. These color are very saturated and give a sense of balance between being warm and cool. The painting doesn’t show depth and remains in the flat style that Haring became famous for. This painting not only educated the masses, it also may have been a coping mechanism for Haring, who was battling A.I.D.S. at the time.Thankfully, with advancement in technology and medicine, people who have the disease are living longer today. It isn’t the death sentence that it used to be. The message still holds up in today’s day and age and is a true testament to the times.
One of his most influential pieces tells the story of Michael Stewart - an African American graffiti artist who was mercilessly beaten to death by the police. The painting shows Stewart being kicked and strangled by anonymous forces, all the while trying to stay afloat a river of people who have succumbed due to police brutality. This work in particular is one that has been told too many times in the 31 years since its release.
The same has been done to many unarmed people of color since - examples of which include: Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Mike Brown to name a few. Although the subject matter of the painting is rather dark, Haring uses colors that on first sight - may trick the viewer into thinking they are about to view a pleasant site. This kind of contrast adds to the meaning of the painting. Movement can be seen throughout the piece as made clear by the black marks outside of each figure. Repetition can be found in the hands that are waving in the river of blood. This piece begins to show depth by adding lines inside of the main figures body, along with in the leg on the right side of the painting.
Keith Haring Continues to inspire contemporary artists of today. Through giving back to his community, he was able to plant the possibility of being an artist into the minds of children everywhere. His work can be found across the world and is a standing testament to not only his ideas, but the ideas of the masses.
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"Myths about HIV and AIDS." Http://www.avert.org/. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.