Private Collection, New York
Collection Richard Hines, Seattle
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Europe
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art Miami; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Keith Haring, June 1997 - January 1999, p. 45, illustrated in colour (inversely illustrated)
New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring: Paintings, Sculpture, Objects and Drawings, November 2005 - March 2006
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and San Francisco, de Young Museum, Keith Haring: The Political Line, April 2013 - February 2015, p. 161, no. 70, illustrated in colour (Paris); and p. 139, no. 92, illustrated in colour (San Francisco)
Jeffrey Deitch, Ed., Keith Haring, New York 2014, p. 225, illustrated in colour (installed in Tony Shafrazi Gallery, 1982)
Dancers and dancing were the life force behind Haring’s art, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Untitled. Haring’s oft-repeated pyramid and UFO motifs are here articulated in neon pink and vivid green paint. Offering a pulsating viewing experience that echoes the sonic rhythms and drum machines of nascent hip-hop, this painting utterly encapsulates the vibrant and liberal spirit of the underground New York club scene during the early 1980s. Haring’s now iconic employment of the UFO and pyramid symbols stemmed from his innovative translation of a new wave of dance that began to proliferate during this period: the electric boogie. At its deepest level the electric boogie goes far back into African-American diaspora; from the Kongo priests of the classical religion through to the Baptist Christians of America’s Deep South. Indeed, the jerking movements, angular torso motions, and shoulder popping prevalent in electric boogie were movements entirely derived from a legacy of the ‘Spirit’ as made supernaturally manifest in the body of a worshipper. The electric boogie was thus born during the 1970s and 80s when these spiritual convulsions found transmutation into widely popular choreographic dance moves.
This dance revolution occurred at the same moment that Haring moved from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, to New York City, and it was here that he first saw the breakdancing B-Boys emulate sharp and electronic robotic motion as though caught in the shimmer of strobe-lighting. Shortly afterwards, flying saucers, from which electric strobes emanated a kind of cosmic new-age energy, began appearing in the graphic lexicon of Haring’s work. In addition to these symbols, which also inferred the existence of an extra-terrestrial higher being, Haring began introducing pyramids and explicitly Ancient Egyptian motifs into his work. Indeed, where the breakdance discipline of ‘Tutting’, a reference to the Ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun, assimilated the upper body angular poses from Egyptian friezes, Haring re-assimilated Ancient Egyptian visual influence through the lens of contemporary dance. Herein, the pyramid refers to the performance of ‘Team Tut’ in which people piled on top of each other in a pyramidal shape making sharp angles signed with their hands. Intriguingly, it was these angular upper body movements particular to ‘tutting’ – which they also called “throwing hieroglyphs” – that developed into the popular dance trend of ‘vogueing’ during the later 1980s (Hernando Molina in conversation with Robert Farris Thompson cited in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (and travelling), Keith Haring: The Political Line, 2013-15, p. 54). Thus, at once referring to an ancient past via the bas-relief conventions of classical Egyptian art and an electrically charged futuristic civilisation, pyramids pulsating with extra-terrestrial energy came to populate and symbolise Haring’s dance fuelled practice.
Utterly infused with the beats and rhythms of 1980s hip-hop and breakdance culture, Untitled from 1982 stands as a powerful testament to Haring’s life and work. Not only does it vividly capture the artist’s instantly recognisable aesthetic, it also demonstrates the unmatched immediacy of his paintings and his passion for cutting edge forms of dance. At once joyous and rebellious, the work represents the spirit of a generation in an exciting and assured display of technical brilliance and visual power.
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