While you might not look at an album cover with the same critical eye as you would a multi-million dollar masterpiece encased behind museum glass, Keith Haring did just that. The post-pop innovator embraced all things DIY, popular and democratic in his art and in his life, leaving his mark on party invites, tee shirts and pins more often than the pristine white walls of galleries.
Haring's artwork is known and loved for its radical simplicity, cherishing the momentum of a perfectly squiggled line over the sometimes unnecessary complexity of more "serious" art. His imagery combines the smile-inducing exuberance of Dr. Seuss with the street-savviness of the New York graffiti scene, creating something as cheery as it is cool. This same privileging of the popular extends from Haring's images to the way he propagated them. Whether spreading his work through promotional giveaways or public murals, Haring was always trying to reach as many people as possible.
This mentality fit in well with the NYC street art scene of the early 1980s, in a time when many budding artists felt closed off from the uber-exclusive galleries and their roster of wealthy collectors. Artists were on the hunt for new avenues through which to share their ideas, whether they be a subway station, a nightclub or a new friend. Haring's warm personality and endless desire to create more, more and more art led him to the forefront of this vision.
From boxer shorts to postcards, Haring saw the world and all its freebies as his canvas. And we are so, so glad. An exhibition of his ephemera is currently on view in an online exhibition Gallery98 at 98 Bowery. See a preview below and head to the gallery website for more.