Welcome back! We’ve got an exciting edition of the Animation Obsessive newsletter lined up for you this week. Here’s what we’re doing:
“The public has a right to art,” Keith Haring wrote in his journal in 1978. He lived by that maxim. During his short career, he lit up the public’s imagination with his kinetic, iconic style. Like Jean-Michel Basquiat, he brought street art to galleries — and rebelled against art-world elitism. As Haring put it:
The public needs art, and it is the responsibility of a “self-proclaimed artist” to realize the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for the few and ignore the masses.
It started in the late ‘80s, as the story goes. Haring and Sesame Street were both based in New York, and the team reached out to him through producer Arlene Sherman. Her background was art and experimental film. She had “connections with downtown artists,” she later said — and so she “would think to bring William Wegman on to do something for Sesame Street, or Keith Haring, or those people.” Haring agreed.
Exactly how far Haring got on the Sesame Street cartoons depends on who you ask. He was a quick and prolific artist, sometimes doing 40 graffiti drawings a day, but his time was limited. Haring was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as the epidemic reached its devastating peak in New York. His output and activism, as a proudly gay artist, only increased in his final years. He made it to early 1990, age 31.