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KENNY SCHARF | REVISITING THE WORK OF A NEW YORK LEGEND

June 2nd 2017
American artist Kenny Scharf is best known for being an integral member of the influential East Village art scene in 1980’s New York. Read more about his work and the limited editions he created for Eyestorm back in 2000 below.

Born in Hollywood, Los Angeles, in 1958, Kenny Scharf grew up in post WII California, where he was immersed in television, popular culture and futuristic promises of a modern world, which undeniably became a huge influence on his art later in life. Often featuring recognisable pop culture icons from his childhood such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons, his signature style is of brightly coloured, psychedelic collages featuring wide-eyed, cartoon-style characters merged together to form seas of slightly disturbing smiling faces and malleable bodies. Although this neon-glow imagery is generally playful, Scharf has remarked that darker themes exist beneath the surface of his works, visible upon closer inspection; his caricatures are seen to represent middle-class Americans and the chaotic scenes an apocalyptic vision of a world in disarray.

Scharf states that his ambition as a professional artist is to “maintain the course that I set over 30 years ago by establishing my work in the fields of painting, sculpture, and performance.” He goes on to say “every project I undertake is building on my past experiences. My original approach is unchanged. One very important and guiding principle to my work is to reach out beyond the elitist boundaries of fine art and connect to popular culture through my art.”

In the late 1970s Scharf moved to New York to study, graduating in 1980 with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and remained in the city, becoming part of the interdisciplinary East Village art scene alongside fellow high profile peers Jean-Michele Basquiat and Keith Haring. Primarily a painter, Scharf’s working practice also spans sculpture, fashion, video, installation, performance art and street art, with many of his paintings created as murals in public spaces in New York - including his notable Bowery Mural of 1982 - and in Los Angeles, where he now resides.

Shortly after leaving college, Scharf began to stage what became known as his ‘Cosmic Caverns’ in New York - immersive black light and Day-Glo paint installations that also functioned as disco parties; the first installed in 1981 in the Times Square apartment he shared with fellow artist Keith Haring. Alongside this underground scene, Scharf was also showing his work in galleries, and was becoming more and more recognised. In 1985 the Whitney museum selected his work to be part of their Biennial. The Whitney currently holds two of his large canvases in their collection, one piece from 1984 and one from 2010.

Kenny Scharf has enjoyed a long and successful career, with many one-man exhibitions staged and public artworks in place all over the world. He continues to make and exhibit work today, and 2017 is a busy year for the artist, with solo shows at Honor Fraser in LA (his fifth with the gallery) and at Deitch Projects, New York; work featured in group exhibition ‘Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s’ at the Whitney Museum, and pieces exhibited in the exhibition ‘Club 57: Film, Performance and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Rare assemblages, collages and paintings of Scharf’s work made between 1978 and 1984 were also presented at this year’s Frieze Art Fair in New York.

In 2000, Scharf produced three exclusive limited editions for Eyestorm: Squaresville, Red Spiral Snake and Bismoland - the latter perhaps title inspiration for fellow street artist Banksy’s 2015 ‘Dismaland’ exhibition in Somerset, UK? Each is a lithograph, signed and numbered by the artist, and available from £750.00

See the works in more detail on the artist’s page here.
ANGIE DAVEY
Creative Director
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