Kenny Scharf in 2012
|Born||1958 (age 58–59)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
|Education||School of Visual Arts, Manhattan, New York City|
|Notable work||Bowery Mural|
Kenny Scharf (born 1958) is an American painter who lives in Los Angeles, California. He was born in Los Angeles and moved to Manhattan, New York City to receive his B.F.A. in 1980 with a major in painting at the School of Visual Arts . He is known for his participation in the interdisciplinary East Village art scene during the 1980s alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. His 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 consist of pop culture icons, such as the Flintstones and the Jetsons, or caricatures of middle-class Americans in an apocalyptic science fiction setting.
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. During this period, he also had important shows at Fun gallery (1981) and Tony Shafrazi (1984), 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...." Recently,[timeframe?] Scharf had a one-person exhibition at the Hammer Museum. And, in 2017, he mounted "BLOX and BAX", his latest one-person exhibition at Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles (his fifth with the gallery). Also in 2017 his work was featured in the large group exhibition "Fast Forward: Painting From the 1980s" at the Whitney Museum. In October 2017, Scharf's work will be included in the exhibition "Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
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 Art Center 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. He 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.
Scharf is also known for welcoming collaborations with popular culture and merchandising opportunities. He did the cover art for the B-52s' fourth studio album, Bouncing off the Satellites and, in 2002, he created and wrote the pilot for an animated series called The Groovenians for Adult Swim. He has appeared in the documentaries The Universe of Keith Haring and The Nomi Song, about his friend, opera singer Klaus Nomi.