Untitled is a small gem of a painting that is both visually rich and historically important. This painting, circa 1955, is part of a series known as "abstract urban landscapes." These works represent a departure from de Kooning's earlier, more figurative work, while preserving his indulgence in pure expression, color and collage present throughout his entire oeuvre. Inspired by his day-to-day life in New York, the "urban landscapes" are a magnificently executed series of paintings offering the viewer intense portraits of Post-War modern city life.
De Kooning focused on the female figure in the early 1950s and by mid-decade these figures had disappeared and were reduced into abstraction. In the mid-1950s de Kooning's transition towards the abstract allowed him to focus more on the process of creation rather than on any specific figural representation. This series of paintings evoke the associated emotions of a booming city with the use of collage to embody an entire environment rather than a specific landscape.
In Untitled, de Kooning has pieced together various elements of previously composed paintings, using adhesive tape in some areas to adhere the paper together. Often the scrambled fragments used in his collages are cut-up compositions that had been kept in his studio. The pink center in Untitled that has been adhered to the sheet is reminiscent of the flesh from an earlier Woman painting. Although the fragments were previously painted, once incorporated with the new work, de Kooning continued to modify the surface by painting over the collaged elements to further integrate the composition. By collaging elements together, de Kooning adds depth and also reveals the process by which it has been created.
Red Eye is another beautiful example of a work from this series and is a virtual companion to the Untitled painting. The paintings are the same size and share similar compositions. De Kooning works very well with the various cut-outs collaged in the composition by finely balancing areas of pure color with other areas of mixed brushstrokes of various shades. Both Untitled and Red Eye were presumably executed during the same timeframe and mindset of the artist, as they both entertain the same palate of sunny yellows and fleshy pinks balanced by rich cobalt blues and opaque black.
Untitled gracefully incorporates de Kooning's masterful use of abstraction, collage, color and style to reveal a representation of an environment that is visually powerful and yet these elements sinuously blend together to avoid distracting the audience away from the most important element of the work: the process. "Nothing, not even the landscape, stands in the way of our comprehension of the process of painting. Since the power of the image as icon had diminished, de Kooning could now transform his exquisite draftsmanship into the ultimate painterly gesture" (D. Waldman, Landscape, Abstraction, and Woman, New York, 1988, p. 105).