Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of LA, Kenny Scharf became immersed in the visuals of 1950s cars, television and the architecture that surrounded him thus shaping his interests in popular culture, art and the surreal.
Fast forward to 1978 when he moves from his native Los Angeles to New York City to attend the School Of Visual Arts (SVA) where he takes courses in photo-realist painting, airbrush, video making and editing, photography and collage. It’s is there that he rallies around peers such as Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Jean-Michel Basquiat who not only pursue exhibiting their art by any means necessary and invigorate a movement in the east village, but then go on to ultimately define contemporary art of our times. Suddenly he began filling with art the public space which was impossible to ignore, more than a gut reaction Kenny’s neat lines remind of almost infantile energy that fills each gate with force. This emphasizes his cartoon –ish style which developed since late 1970.
His work is not necessarily groundbreaking, yet provocative, and will be more than a footnote in future art history chronicles; the urge and intend in simple lines to define an entire parallel world living inside by his constant street junk love, underground comics and simple perfection in urban glam color depict his total control of his skills. His art can make step into his world convincing on the clarity of his imagination, transforming the illegal and clandestine state of graffiti into an aesthetic contemplative street layer, clearly influenced on science fiction and all TV he saw as a child.
Fast forward again, and you will find Kenny Scharf at 52 and as ambitious as ever, taking part in public art projects, exhibitions world-wide and celebrated museum exhibitions such as Art in the Streets, a survey of the history of street art at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. After several retrospectives, The Gates Project, an urban intervention in New York streets a couple of months ago, Kenny painted dozens of roll-down storefront gates.
photo by Joe Ruso
During a private press tour, guided in pedicabs, guests were guided around the burgeoning Lower East Side to view Scharf’s painted gates. Guests were even handed spray cans and told to spray a gate directly across the street from one of Scharf’s works in intent to create more interactive-based experience.
Furthermore his manifestations remain personally enriched, where his endless world of iconography and concepts makes him no stranger to the independent observer that has no semantic visual language for graffiti, his cultural visual production has its own ways of communicating. Creating his own fictions Kenny shares his personal dreams and fantasies making them accessible at any time – ahichieving them through ordinary space.
Kenny Scharf & Elie Tahara
This accomplishment aside, Kenny continues to pursue the fun that is his art and he finds no 4 walls that define his inspiration, attitude, and influence.
by Joseph Henrikson and Laura Resendiz