In 1983 the artist spent some weeks at his close friends Kenny and Tereza Scharf’s house in Bahia, Brasil where the couple had bought some land close to the beach. Haring was immediately inspired by the lush foliage and bright colours and set to work on decorating their home in his iconic motifs; his dancing figures, jumping dolphins and singing dogs sprawling all over the couple’s house and its surroundings. Haring would spend some time in Brasil every year for a number of years, for periods of up to a month, and those stays would become a source of great inspiration for him. Scharf explains how “he was always scoping out good places to do paintings. And there was things everywhere; he was a huge impact, he’d go in the street going like whoa whoa whoa, you know? In New York he didn’t have that” (Kenny Scharf in: Guto Barra and Gisela Matta, Restless – Keith Haring in Brazil, 2013, 00:41). The present work bears the name of the artist’s beloved refuge and is clearly imbued with the country’s luminosity and vibrancy.
In Untitled (Brasil) the artist combines electric colours with an application of classic Pop imagery, clearly relishing in the bold lines and the expressive face of its cheeky protagonist. The cartoonish figure is reminiscent of children’s TV shows, a source of inspiration for the artist that would make its appearance in Haring’s canvasses and works on paper regularly. In his work Haring would bridge the high with the low, challenging the assumption that comic illustrations, graffiti or TV-inspired doodles could not reach the rarefied heights of more classical forms of contemporary fine art. Haring relied on “a legacy of symbols and archetypes that lurk in the collective unconscious” alongside popular culture, ingeniously blending both together to create a new vocabulary that is highly original and paradigmatic to his visual language (Germano Celant in: ‘Keith Haring: Labyrinths of Life and Death’ in Germano Celant, Ed., Keith Haring, Munich, 1997, p. 9). Untitled (Brasil) is a powerful example of Haring’s ability to distill the very essence of each and every source of inspiration and translate these into his own, singular idiom.
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