The mission of the Keith Haring Foundation is to sustain, expand, and protect the legacy of Keith Haring, his art, and his ideals. The Foundation supports not-for-profit organizations that assist children, as well as organizations involved in education, research and care related to AIDS.
Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages. The now famous Crack is Wack mural of 1986 has become a landmark along New York’s FDR Drive. Other projects include; a mural created for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, on which Haring worked with 900 children; a mural on the exterior of Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris, France in 1987; and a mural painted on the western side of the Berlin Wall three years before its fall.
In April 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images. Haring considered the shop to be an extension of his work and painted the entire interior of the store in an abstract black on white mural, creating a striking and unique retail environment. The shop was intended to allow people greater access to his work, which was now readily available on products at a low cost.
One of Haring's famous creations was a radiant baby, which has its origins in Christianity. Haring described the baby as the purest and most positive human.
The contrived use of a monochrome ground, the rapid and fluent course of a line of constant breadth, and a simple repertoire of forms designed to ensure constant recognizability, are the characteristic features of works with an immediate effect. For this reason, his images achieved an iconic status: the name Keith Haring was and continues to be primarily associated with the graphic painting style in which areas of luminous color are outlined in thick black contours. These lines are not just drawn for reasons of purely formal demarcation, but enjoy an aesthetic status of their own.
It is well known that Haring made use of psychedelic drugs. But his roots in counter-culture are clear, too, He had absorbed the art of the cartoon from his father, with whom he used to draw comic strips. But after his father, the most fertile encounter was with William Burroughs, the most radical and maudit spirit of the Beat Generation, direct heir to the post-surrealist tradition by way of his close ties to Brion Gysin.
Haring worked in a variety of media: video, canvas, paper. According to his official website, he was greatly influenced by the artists Jean Dubuffet and Pierre Alechinsky and by the writer William Burroughs. But he also seemed to derive a great deal of energy from the music and street art scenes in New York – one of his close friends was Jean-Michel Basquiat, who also helped bring the high-octane splatter of graffiti into the realm of fine art.
According to Haring himself, one important experience for his artistic career was an excursion to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., where, for the first time, he saw works by Andy Warhol, a Marilyn series. This encounter ushered in the internal decision-making process that led to his taking up art as a career.
Within six months I came to realize that no matter what, I wasn't going to be a commercial artist. I mean, a lot of the students and a lot of the teachers were saying that they were becoming commercial artists only to support their own work as real painters and sculptors. But I saw through that right away. I realized that if I spent the whole day doing mechanicals and pasteups, I wouldn't have any interest left in doing my own work afterwards. ... So I finished my second semester at Ivy and then decided to leave school.
Keith Haring is always identified first and foremost with the early icons with which he made his public debut: the radiant baby, the barking dog and his unmistakable outline men tangled up in various, partly "comic" or abstruse actions.