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.
Early life and education
Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on May 4, 1958. He was raised in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, by his mother, Joane Haring, and father, Allen Haring, an engineer and amateur cartoonist. He had three younger sisters, Kay, Karen and Kristen. Haring became interested in drawing and art at a very early age. He studied commercial art from 1976 to 1978 at Pittsburgh’s Ivy School of Professional Art but lost interest in commercial art. He moved to New York to study Painting. In his junior/senior year, he was behind on credits, because his professors could not give him credit for the very loose art work he was doing with very themes of social activism.
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.