Keith Haring

Keith Haring (1958-1990)

Haring was a major figure in the New York pop and graffiti art movement in the 1980’s when his bold cartoon and graffiti influenced works created a sensation. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1978, twenty years later Haring moved to New York and enrolled at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and quickly joined the underground art community. The city became his studio. Working outside the gallery and museum system, he discovered that using unused advertising spaces on subway walls was a way to reach a wide urban public. Employing simple lines and subjects of children, babies and dogs, he made hundreds of white chalk drawings and bold colored murals that became familiar to riders throughout the urban underground system. To make his art more accessible in 1986 he opened a Pop Shop that sold t-shirts and posters he designed. His bold, unique graphic style is immediately familiar and became a universally recognized twentieth century visual language. Deeply committed to social causes, Haring helped organize exhibitions with social messages in alternative spaces such as night clubs, and former dance halls, and created public works for hospitals, orphanages, day care centers, children’s educational programs, and anti-drug advocacy organizations . In 1987, he established the Keith Haring Foundation to support AIDS victims. In his short life, he showed his work in over 100 solo and group exhibitions, including prestigious venues like Documenta 7, Kassel, Germany, the Whitney Biennale in New York and the Sao Paulo Biennale. His works belong to the collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, to name only a few. Haring’s two works in the Putnam Collection are representative of the sculptural style he developed in the last years of his life. Acrobats (1986), playful and full of vitality, shows two acrobats in a gravity defying pose that evokes the naive simplicity of children’s art, while Two Dancing Figures (1989), humorous and energetic, is inspired by New York Latino and Afro-American street performers , one of Haring’s favorite visual sources. His meteoric rise was cut short by his death from AIDS related causes at the age of thirty-two. His funeral, held in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, was attended by over one thousand mourners.

Works in the collection:

37 Two Dancing Figures, 1989
Enamel on aluminum
Kelvin Smith Library, Anne M. and Roger Clapp Reading Room, [1998.1]

40 Acrobats, 1996
Painted aluminum
Glennan Building Entrance, Van Horn Field, [2007.1]

The Putnam Sculpture Collection
Case Western Reserve University
11201 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7110