Keith Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up in Kutztown and was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied graphic design at The Ivy School of Professional Art, a commercial and fine art school in Pittsburgh. At age 19 Haring moved to New York City, where he was inspired by graffiti art, and studied at theSchool of Visual Arts.
Haring achieved his first public attention with chalk drawings in the subways of New York. The exhibitions were filmed by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around this time, “The Radiant baby” became his symbol. His bold lines, vivid colors, and active figures carry strong messages of life and unity. Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions in Club 57. He participated in the Times Square Exhibition and drew, for the first time, animals and human faces. In 1981 he sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic, metal and found objects.
Haring contributed to the New York New Wave display in 1981, and had his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. That same year, Haring took part in Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. By 1982, he established friendships with fellow artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Grace Jones, Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He took part in the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the São PauloBiennial. He got to know Andy Warhol, who was the theme of several of Haring’s pieces including “Andy Mouse.” His friendship with Warhol would prove to be a decisive element in his eventual success, particularly after their deaths. By expressing concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, Haring’s imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century. Haring died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications.