Tag Archives: activism

Happy Birthday Keith!

Keith Haring would have been 62 years old today had he not succumbed to HIV/AIDS related complications in 1990.

Body Positive Cover
Photo by Kevin B. Smith

Keith was an activist as well as an artist, and frequently used his artwork to help draw attention to a variety of issues, including the call to end apartheid, nuclear-disarmament, and the HIV-AIDS epidemic.

In a statement in the magazine Flash Art in 1984, Keith wrote “I think the contemporary artist has a responsibility to humanity to continue celebrating humanity and opposing the dehumanization of our culture.”  His well-documented history of social activism shows his commitment to this belief.

Free South Africa rally
End Apartheid rally in Central Park, NYC, 1985.  Keith and friends distributing posters which he designed and printed.  Photo by Tseng Kwong Chi, 1985 © Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc., New York
Anti-nuclear rally, Central Park, NYC, 1982. Keith and friends handing out posters which he designed and printed.  Photo by Joseph Szkodzinksi
AIDS mural Barcelona
Together We Can Stop AIDS, 1989, mural in Barcelona

February 16, 1990

Keith Haring was an activist as well as an artist, creating posters, murals, logos, pins, etc., for causes as wide-ranging as anti-littering and literacy outreach, to AIDS awareness and anti-Apartheid.

Buttons by Haring
A selection of social and political buttons by Keith Haring
AIDS mural Barcelona
AIDS Mural in Barcelona, 1989

His fine artwork also directly addressed social concerns; sometimes using humor, as in the collages he created from New York Post headlines that he Xeroxed and posted around the city; and sometimes illustrating the brutality of the system, such as in Michael Stewart – USA for Africa, a response to the killing of the young graffiti artist Michael Stewart.

Keith Haring NY Post Headlines collage
NY Post collage wheat-pasted onto a wall in New York, 1980
Michael Stewart - USA for Africa
Michael Stewart – USA for Africa, 1985

Keith occaisionally struggled with feelings of hopelessness in the face bigotry and corruption, but still he fought on however he was able.  Before his death on this date in 1990, he established the Keith Haring Foundation so that it could continue the work he began.

“We go forward, we have the means, but we’re still in the same situation.  And we still fightin’.

By any means necessary.

By any means necessary.

By any means necessary.”

-from Keith Haring’s  journals, July 1988

The Body Positive magazine cover
Cover of The Body Positive, photo by Kevin B. Smith