What began with chalk drawings on unused advertising panels in New York City subways ended with international superstardom and a life cut prematurely short, all within the space of a decade. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Keith Haring, born on this date in 1958.
Haring’s cartoonish “pop art” creations serve as the inspiration of the Doodle. Haring’s “Barking Dog” takes the place of Google’s “l”. Interestingly, one of Haring’s most famous images, the “Radiant Baby” (a crawling child surrounded by rays of light) doesn’t appear in the Doodle.
Even at a young age, Haring loved Dr. Seuss and Disney characters. Later, he was drawn to the alternative street scene in New York City and became devoted to creating public art in dozens of cities around the globe, which included murals in Australia, Amsterdam, Paris, Phoenix, and Brooklyn.
''He was one of the most astonishingly unique talents of recent times,'' gallery owner Tony Shafrazi, told the New York Times. ''In a short time after he arrived in New York at age 20, he practically took over Manhattan with his subway drawings, which were an instant series of signs and pictograms that everybody became familiar with.”
By 1985, he moved his “laboratory” from the street to painting canvas and his work was featured in more than 100 exhibitions in galleries and museums internationally. Eventually he commanded $350,000 per piece. He also designed albums for “A Very Special Christmas”, “Red Hot + Blue” and “Red Hot + Dance” and advertising for companies such as Absolut vodka and Swatch watches.
In 1986, he opened his own store, the Pop Shop, selling posters, T-shirts, buttons, and other merchandise featuring his artwork. It closed in 2005, but lives on online.
After he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, the Keith Haring Foundation was established in 1989 to assist AIDS-related and children’s charities. He died Feb. 16, 1990 due to complications from AIDS at the age of 31.
The “first large-scale exhibition to explore the early career of one of the best-known American artists” of the 20th century continues through July 8 at Brooklyn Museum in New York.
The official Keith Haring website, which also wishes him happy birthday today, sums up his artistic legacy:
“By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century."