KEITH HARING first made his mark by drawing within New York’s bustling transit system. So it’s fitting that today, the onetime “Cezanne of the subway” gets to grace one of the world’s most-trafficked walls.
Google pays tribute Friday to the late Pop artist of the ‘80s, celebrating what would have been his 54th birthday with a home-page Doodle featuring Haring’s iconically kinetic characters.
It’s a smartly vibrant homage to the true “underground artist” and activist who rose to conquer the high-art world before dying of AIDS-related complications in 1990, at age 31. Haring’s cartoonish figures — which included “Radiant Baby” and “Three-Eyed Man” — danced across a decade, reflecting moods and movement from his Big Apple streets.
“Honoring Keith Haring with a Doodle was a very natural choice,” the logo’s designer, Google’s Mike Dutton says. “His colorful palette, the simple, whimsical nature of his characters, the ability to take large expanses of white space, then mess with it, as well as his social activism in both his life and work – well, let’s just say that Keith Haring is considered the grandmaster of doodling.”
Haring’s deft hand not only found him fame, as his career train would run to Gotham galleries and the Whitney, then carry him to Paris and Venice, Brazil and Australia and the globe over. His rapid rise also rendered a through-line snaking along ‘80s mainstream pop culture, as he inspired Madonna and painted the body of Grace Jones; was befriended by fellow creatives Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bill T. Jones; as he was celebrated by U2 and championed by Andy Warhol, a fellow Pennsylvania transplant.
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Learning fromWarhol’s savvy with commercial images, Haring opened a SoHo shop in the mid-’80s to sell items — from clothes to tchotchkes — adorned with his own artwork.
The artist-turned-activist started the Keith Haring Foundation in the late ‘80s, after he learned he had HIV. Among his last works were images for PBS’s “Sesame Street” that aired posthumously.
In 2008, director Christina Clausen released the documentary “The Universe of Keith Haring.”
From the underground subway to grandmaster of fine-art graffiti, Haring created a remarkable legacy, especially considering his creative ride was cut short.
Happy birthday, Keith Haring.
Comic Riffs’ TOP TWELVE ‘GOOGLE DOODLES’ THAT HONOR MUSICAL & VISUAL ARTISTS (*before today):
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE MOBILE DOODLE
11. WILL EISNER: THE SPIRITED DOODLE
12. RICHARD SCARRY: THE BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD