05/04/2012 11:07 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Keith Haring's Birthday: A Look Back At The Graphic Pop Artist's Work And Gay Legacy

"The public needs art -- and it is the responsibility of a 'self-proclaimed artist' to realize that the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses."

So claimed Keith Haring, who would've celebrated his 54th birthday on May 4. One of the art world's best-known (and perhaps, most misunderstood) figures to emerge during the latter part of the 20th century, Haring was never one for social or creative conventions.

The openly gay Haring, who died of AIDS at the age of 31 in 1990, is best remembered for his sprawling, almost childlike dancers, flying saucers and barking dogs -- but the graphic pop artist and human rights activist also broke fresh ground with the amount of LGBT imagery and subtext he brought to much of his art.

Haring's earliest work is currently on display as part of a large-scale exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, which runs through July 8. He's also been honored with a special Google Doodle.

In honor of his birthday, take a look at a selection of photos from that exhibit below: