The First Five Years of the Artist Whose Canvas was New York

Recently, we were fortunate enough to check out the Keith Haring exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Real Pop Art lovers know everything there is to know about Haring, the pre-eminent artist and social activist. But for those who aren’t familiar, we’ve gathered some of his pieces to share with you in celebration of his short but intense career. The show took place in three main galleries and presented Haring’s early works (1978-1982) in a variety of media. It outlined the development of his studio practice and production of public and political art through works on paper and archival objects such as exhibition flyers, rarely seen videos and self-portraits.

After viewing this huge collection, it is hard to believe it was all produced in a brief five-years—with the young artist dying at just 31-years-old.

Keith Haring was one of the prominent artists of the downtown scene in the 1970’s and 80’s, along with his good friends Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Untitled piece: Basquiat & Haring Collaboration (on the left: Haring’s baby and Basquiat’s crown – two important symbols)

Haring first came to public attention with his drawings, a subtle wink to New Yorkers on the subway—and his friendship with Andy Warhol connected him to rising celebrities like Madonna, who described Haring’s work as “StreetArt”.

Haring was also socially-conscious, and his work often reflected his position on social issues.  As a philanthropist, he established the Keith Haring Foundation to provide funding to AIDS organizations as well as to promote activism and awareness about the disease.

By expressing concepts of war, birth, death and sex with his simple lines and vibrant colors, Haring’s work has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.

His personal sketchbooks were the most fascinating; they were filled with intricate drawings with enigmas needing resolve. Haring’s life photographs were also displayed on some walls and as we browsed the gallery, it really felt like we were in his head.

Indeed, beyond the display of his technical art, the exhibition gives us a real overview of what kind of person Haring was: a humane and committed artist with a kind soul.

If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Museum, you should check it out—although the Keith Haring exhibit is over for now they’ve got some other really amazing exhibits worth seeing.

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