Keith Haring (American, 1958–1990)
One of the key figures in New York's East Village art scene in the 1970s and 1980s, American artist Keith Haring found fame through his work on the city's subways, streets, and sidewalks before his paintings and drawings began appearing in art galleries. He developed a unique and distinctly personal vocabulary of bold, graphic icons—hearts, flying saucers, winged figures, and a crawling "radiant baby"—which he combined with abstract marks and patterns in densely packed, allover compositions. Haring used the popularity of his work, which was immediately recognizable and widely appealing, as a powerful platform for social activism benefitting causes including AIDS awareness, anti-drug campaigns, and community outreach. Though Haring's career was cut short by his death at the age of 31, his work continues to have an enduring impact.
Among the works by Haring in The Museum of Modern Art's collection is one of his masterworks, a 56-foot-long drawing from the early years of his brief but meteoric career that encompasses a lexicon of his imagery. Always looking for a way to bridge the gap between the art world and the real world, Haring once said, "My work in the subway was available to everyone and everyone was equal in ownership of it. It is almost a responsibility to continue that stance and make my work available to all kinds of people."