Keith Haring: An Art For Everybody

Keith Haring: An Art For Everybody

Author: Valeria Frezza

Keith Haring’s Influences And Style

Keith Haring’s art does not fit into a specific artistic movement. It rather gathers characteristics from the diverse artistic movements of the period that influenced the artist, creating a personal and unique style. The most important influences are especially Graffiti art, Pop art, and the Beat Generation. Nevertheless, his art was also inspired by comics, by Alechinsky, Dubuffet, Christo, Matisse, and by Egyptian, Japanese, Chinese, and Mayan pictograms. By drawing on all these artistic sources, without fully joining any of them, Haring acquired a broad view on the life and reality of the time. This allowed him to achieve his main purpose in art: an art for everybody.

His artworks, also available for purchase on, express both the influences and the main purpose of the artist. The style of the artist is simple, characterized by only a few colors and outlines. Bright uniform colors fill the thick black shapes. The thick black contour lines appear as containers of the small stylized figures that epitomize ancestral symbols and signs. The figures are always engaged in some activities whilst distorting their bodies.

These small figures and symbols that fill the artworks became the signature of the artist, whose style is immediately recognizable by anyone today. They appear to be simple signs, drawn with a rapid gesture, but they are actually much more. They refer to contemporary culture, life, and society, and wish to substitute spoken language for conveying their ideals. Only in this sense the drawings are simplified: they are reduced to their very basic forms (one continuous black line and one uniform color), while every other superfluous element is removed. In this way, Haring creates a sign that can be comprehensible for as many people as possible. He creates symbols that are universal.


Keith Haring’s Artistic Purpose

For such a universal art, the role of the audience is essential. It is even more essential than that of the artist himself. The audience is an active part of the artwork. Indeed, it is the observer that gives sense and meaning to the work of art by understanding it with his or her own sensitivity and subjectivity. The intention of the artist is ignored, because it could affect the viewer’s personal understanding of the piece. The artist creates the work of art, but the audience creates its purpose and meaning.

Nevertheless, the work of art is not only universal, but also very particular and individual. The stylized figures are usually both happy and sad, excited and disappointed. Each of them seems to represent a different aspect of the artist’s life and personality. All these figures within their circumstances, personalities, tragedies or amusements, are enclosed inside the framing thick black outlines. In this way, Haring creates another reality. He unites the multiplicity of lives into one single existence.

The two realities bring together the conscious lives and spirits of the period with the unconscious symbols of collective imagination. The artist uses his individuality to achieve universality. The work of art both represents the reality of the time and transcends it. It shows an apparent simplicity, whilst hiding a deeper complexity. Keith Haring’s art is based on these oppositions, which, in reality, all strive for the same purpose: the art for everybody.