It has been a very long time since i first encountered the works by Kenny Scharf at the Groninger Museum in the early Eighties. During the famous Grafiti exhibition the works by Scharf were among the ones i admired most. Comic like , huge paintings that impressed, but somehow…. over the years ….did not stick with me. Last month i encountered a catlogue by the Tony Shafrazi gallery. It was the Scharf 1983 catalogue and i was fascinated again. the same powerful comic like figures , but over the decades they have matured into great timeless art. The catalogue is available at www.ftn-books.com
Here is what Angelica Jardini says on Kenny Scharf and i can fully agree with her.
If you like to have fun, you’re going to like Kenny Scharf.
The American painter sources his fantastical creations from retro cartoons, like The Jetsons and The Flintstones, and popular science fiction. His style is completely unique, and once you know his colorful, animorphic creatures, you’ll see them everywhere.
No, literally. Scharf does tons of murals and public art. This ties in with his manifesto to make art for the people- works that anyone can enjoy, not just stuffy academics or rich collectors. And his vividly playful tableaux live up to his goals. Whether he’s picking Instagram followers for “Karbombz,” where he spraypaints one of his signature critters on your car for free, or reimagining a picnic table as a psychadelic atomic bomb, Scharf breaks down the elitist barriers of the art world by implementing his vision in lots of places outside the gallery and museum.
And boy is he prolific. He’s collaborated on a collection with fashion designer Jeremy Scott, creates immersive blacklight installations called “cosmic closets” for parties, and even designed this hilarious pool toy.
Though a lot of his work references serious subjects like apocalyptic nuclear warfare, he somehow makes it lighthearted. One of his newest series of paintings features shining cartoon donuts, some of which are hurtling through space. Homer Simpson and I were both tickled pink (with sprinkles).
Scharf hit it big in the 1980’s art scene in a little place called the East Village, in Manhattan. He was friends and roommates with famous street artist Keith Haring, and it’s easy to imagine them tagging up the town, brightening city streets and commuters’ days with their creative graffiti.
Now you’d assume most famous artists with famous friends would let success go to their head, but when we met Scharf at an event he graciously passed the time chatting with us about his life and work. Over ice cream tacos, we learned he likes to ride his bike and that he released his pet turtles to a local turtle sanctuary where he visits them often.
Like his art, the guy makes you smile.