NEW YORK, NY.- Tony Shafrazi Gallery
is holding an exhibition of works by Keith Haring which celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passing of the artist born in Reading, Pennsylvania. Haring died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications.
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 emerging artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He took part in the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the São Paulo Biennial. 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.
In 1984, Haring visited Australia and painted wall murals in Melbourne (such as the 1984 'Detail-Mural at Collingwood College, Victoria' that is due for demolition) and Sydney and received a AU$1000 commission from the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to create a mural, based on his graffiti designs, which temporarily replaced the water curtain at the National Gallery. He also visited and painted in Rio de Janeiro, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis and Manhattan. He even designed a jacket worn by a pink-wigged Madonna for a performance of her song "Like a Virgin" for the TV dance program Solid Gold.
In 1985 Haring started to paint canvas. Simultaneously, the Museum of Modern Art in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of his works, and took part in the Paris Biennial. He made an appearance on MTV in November 1985, painting the set during a "guest VJ" special hosted by his friend, keyboardist Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. In 1986 Haring painted murals in Amsterdam, Paris, Phoenix and in Berlin on the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate. As well, he painted the body of Grace Jones for her music video "I'm Not Perfect." and opened a retail store in SoHo called Pop Shop, selling merchandise bearing his iconic images; the outlet closed in 2005. By then, his work began reflecting more socio-political themes, such as anti-Apartheid, AIDS awareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic. He even created several pop art pieces influenced by other products: Absolut Vodka, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. In 1987 he had his own exhibitions in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others. He also designed the cover for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, on which Madonna was included. In 1988 he joined a select group of artists whose work has appeared on the label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine.
Haring also created a public mural in the ambulatory care department of Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center on Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn.
In 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. He established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children's programs, and to expand the audience for Harings work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.
In June 1989, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio in Pisa, he painted the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo."