Keith Haring’s Untitled is vibrant deconstruction of the artist’s iconic painterly process. Visible sketches and patches of color serve as groundwork for Haring’s distinct, bold lines with each color representing a new layer, much like the execution of graffiti. This multi-layered composition emerged out of Haring’s early graffiti work in which he honed his signature style by adulterating the New York City subway system. Remnants of this can be seen in the dripping paint and white backdrop which give a rarified raw and energetic quality to Untitled, recalling the moments when the artist was caught creating graffiti in public spaces and had to quickly escape the scene.
The scene depicted within the painting is consumed with energy and activity. A monstrous figure is pulled out of a hat, while an animated silhouette topples over with surprise. Using basic lines and universal symbols, Keith Haring created a kind of personal, pictographic vocabulary that is at the same time humorous and serious. The three-pronged crown, which his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat often used to sign his works, is found in the bottom-right corner, a poignant reminder of his friend, less than a month after Basquiat’s tragic death. To the right of the Basquiat crown, lines radiate out with movement and life energy. These radiating lines denote the basics of drawing and cartooning that underpin Haring’s oeuvre.
Throughout his short but prolific career, Keith Haring emphasized how he was enthralled by the visual simplicity of drawing ever since early childhood: “I’m drawing when I’m painting. When you’re drawing, it’s completely separate because drawing is making a mark and cutting into space and finding something that didn’t exist before. It’s pure creation in its simplest form.” (K. Haring, quoted by J. Rubell, ‘Keith Haring: The Last Interview,’ Arts Magazine, September 1990, p. 53).