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Crack is Wack Playground

Keith Haring was a famous, openly gay artist known both locally and worldwide in the 1980's and 90's. Originally from Pennsylvania, Haring's father was a cartoonist who sparked his interest in art. After a stint in school for graphic design and later working at an arts and crafts center in Pittsburgh, he moved to New York to study graffiti in favor of commercial art. His artistic career started within the New York Subway system, where he would post random works of art around the subway platforms...

Keith Haring was a famous, openly gay artist known both locally and worldwide in the 1980's and 90's. Originally from Pennsylvania, Haring's father was a cartoonist who sparked his interest in art. After a stint in school for graphic design and later working at an arts and crafts center in Pittsburgh, he moved to New York to study graffiti in favor of commercial art. His artistic career started within the New York Subway system, where he would post random works of art around the subway platforms and in trains. His primary medium was chalk, in order to avoid prosecution for vandalism, though he also reportedly liked its impermanence. His primary message was always positive in nature and showed support for the appreciation of love, life, excitement, and movement. As his career progressed, he was invited to contribute to many prestigious exhibitions like the New York Wave display, Tony Shafrazi gallery, and Documenta 7, aiding the transition of his reputation from street artist to fine artist.

One of his more famous works was a piece called Crack is Wack, which was painted on a handball court in a park on 128th St. and 2nd Avenue in New York City. The park itself now officially bears the name of the iconic mural, though he painted this mural without permission from the city or the Department of Parks. It was a piece intended to warn the public about the crack-cocaine smoking epidemic that had festered in New York City in the 1980's. Haring's choice of cautioning orange tones coupled with stark black lines conveys a sense of abruptness and imminent danger. His forms show his philosophy that art should be accessible to everyone. He painted in public spaces, outside of the museum world, and in simple images with, in this case in particular, straightforward messages. He used images such as flying skulls, a burning dollar bill, and a bound man hanging helplessly above the mouth of a monster both literally, and metaphorically, representing his feelings toward the life-threatening trend that raged through the city.

Keith Haring's unique style and notoriety soon led to introductions to famous stars such as Madonna and Andy Warhol. He formed a strong tie with Andy Warhol, who became a subject for a few of Haring's drawings, including Andy-Mouse. Madonna, whom he also dated, wore his designs on a jacket during one of her tours as well. Sadly, Haring's life was cut short due to an AIDS-related health condition. Diagnosed in 1988 with AIDS, he would die two years later in 1990 at the age of 31. His close friend Madonna held an AIDS benefit concert in memorium.

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E. 128th St & Second Ave
New York, NY 10035
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July 11, 2012

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December 13, 2010
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