Here is the second installment of my Slambase series. Today's entry is Kenny Scharf, another New York-based artist whose work with cartoons appeals to kids and adults alike.
Kenny Scharf – Life and Career
Kenny Scharf is a seasoned vet in the painting world. Born in Hollywood, California in 1958, he moved to New York City to study art and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts in 1980.
He began exhibit his work at small outlets in the East Village – Fun Gallery (1981) and Tony Shafrazi (1984) – before being courted by museums, which led to a spot in the 1985 Whitney Biennial. He continued working in New York alongside the growing art community that was attracted cats from across the country and beyond. Then in 1990, one of Scharf’s close friends, graffiti artist Keith Haring, died of AIDS. It was a tough time for the community but just like anything, life must go on
In 1995, he opened two stores: Scharf Shop in Miami Beach and Scharf Shak in New York, and in the same year was in some involved in five exhibitions along the East Coast (two in NYC, one in Connecticut and two in Florida).
Over the course of the next decade, Scharf’s work would be the centre of dozens of solo exhibitions until a slow-down over the past couple of years. According to his website, his primary residence is now back in California.
Scharf’s work is typical of the lowbrow art movement that started in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Lowbrow is an art movement that attempts to rid itself of philosophy and academia and for a long time was unaccepted by the art community as legitimate art (and to a certain point still is today). Many museums and art galleries become upset that many lowbrow artists are also self-taught as this was weakened the bond between studying and creating.
However, some lowbrow artists, like Scharf, have transitioned from lowbrow galleries to mainstream art galleries and numerous publications have been produced as a sort-of debate between the two camps on whether or not lowbrow is art.
Scharf’s artwork itself is a mix between an exaggerated take on comic books and pop surrealism (although some think that lowbrow and pop surrealism are interchangeable words). He has been known to use images from cartoons like the Jetsons and the Flintstones in his works, which he uses to “reach out beyond the elitist boundaries of fine art and connect to popular culture.”
His work has been exhibited extensively across the United States and internationally as well, in Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Monterrey, Mexico to name but a few.
“My ambition as a professional artist is to maintain the course that I set nearly 20 years ago…My original approach is unchanged; it is a personal challenge to produce the best work possible every time.”