Keith Haring is the subject of the latest Google Doodle on internet search giant Google’s homepage, on what would have been the 54th birthday of the artist and social activist. Haring died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31.
Graffiti art and the dance music of the Eighties inspired Haring‘s work, and the Google Doodle paying tribute to him reflects that. The stylised Google logo features what look like dancers in basic red, blue, yellow and green colours forming the shape of the letters in the word ‘Google’.
Keith Haring’s ‘Radiant Baby’. Image by Wikimedia Commons
Haring, who was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, did have a background in art. He studied commercial art from 1976-1978 at The Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, lost interest in the subject, and then studied fine arts. At the age of 19, he packed up and moved to New York City, and undertook art studies again, at the School of Visual Arts.
His chalk drawings on the New York subway garnered attention in the late 1970s and his ‘radiant baby’ became his symbol, done in his style of bold lines, vivid colours, and active figures denoting life and unity. In the mid-80s, Haring’s work began to receive international exposure. He painted wall murals in Melbourne, Australia, and held exhibitions in Helsinki, Finland, and Antwerp, Belgium.
Pop artist Andy Warhol soon became Haring’s mentor and in 1986 Haring opened a shop called Pop Shop in SoHo, where he sold merchandise bearing his images, as well as reproductions of his art. Pop star Madonna used to be a regular customer.
Two years later, however, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. He took action, though, and established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organisations and children’s programmes, and to expand the audience for his work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images.
Haring used his art during the last years of his life to talk about his own illness and to generate activism and awareness about AIDS.
He died on 16 February 1990 in New York.
Artist and social activist Keith Haring.
Image by Wikimedia Commons