Kenny Scharf

Kenny Scharf  is an American painter known for his participation in New York City’s interdisciplinary East Village art scene during the 1980s, alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Scharf’s do-it-yourself practice spanned painting, sculpture, fashion, video, performance art, and street art. Growing up in post-World War II Southern California, Scharf was fascinated by television and the futuristic promise of modern design.His works often includes pop culture icons, such as the Flintstones and the Jetsons, or caricatures of middle-class Americans in an apocalyptic science fiction setting.

Born in Los Angeles, Scharf moved to Manhattan, earning a BFA in painting at the School of Visual Arts in 1980. In the East Village of the 1980s, Scharf began his trademark Cosmic Caverns, immersive black light and Day-Glo paint installations that also function as ongoing disco parties. The first was known as the “Cosmic Closet” and was installed in 1981 in the Times Square apartment he shared with Keith Haring. They exhibited together a six minutes video called “The Sparkle End” (1980) in the landmark 1980 Collaborative Projects exhibition The Times Square Show.

During this period, Scharf also had important shows at Fun Gallery (1981) and Tony Shafrazi (1983, 1984, 1985), before seeing his work embraced by museums, such as the Whitney, which selected him for the 1985 Whitney Biennial. Art scribe Demetria Daniels writing in Downtown Magazine said about his work that it… “leaves you with hope, joy, play and optimism, and a sense of love….”

From then his career took off and he had international exhibitions such as with Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich (1985) or Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo (1986, 1988). In 1987, Scharf designed a swing carousel for André Heller’s Luna Luna, an ephemeral amusement park in Hamburg with rides designed by renowned contemporary artists.

Other one-person exhibitions of Scharf’s work have been presented at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, NY (2016); Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR (2015); Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA (2004); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles (2001); Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR (1999); Salvador Dalí Museum, Saint Petersburg, FL (1997); University Galleries, Illinois State University, Normal, IL (1997); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico (1996); and Museum of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, FL (1995). His public artworks are on view at ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA; Cross Bronx Expressway on Third Avenue, Bronx, NY; Houston Street and Bowery, New York, NY; Norfolk Street, New York, NY; Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA; West Adams Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA; West Hollywood Public Library, West Hollywood, CA; and many other locations around the world. His work is included in public collections such as the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL; The Jewish Museum, New York, NY; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey, Mexico; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Sogetsu Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

Kenny Scharf
Kenny Scharf Fred, 2019

Kenny Scharf, Fred, 2019, varnish on wood, 98 x 98 cm

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