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Iconic artist Kenny Scharf in his studio for an exploration of his style and his current work.
Kenny Scharf is a true visionary with a distinctly wild and playful style. The inventor of the term pop-surrealism, Scharf rose to prominence as a graffiti artist in the NYC art scene alongside his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Kenny Scharf, on view from February 28 to April 4, 2015. This wide-ranging show traces the evolution of Scharf’s diverse artistic practice, presenting a selection of rarely shown early videos and collages. Also featured will be a salon-style installation of paintings from the artist’s new Born Again series, in addition to never before exhibited assemblage paintings. A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition.
Though Scharf is best known for his exuberant iconography, his work also contains underlying themes that reflect his ongoing commitment to social and environmental concerns. For Scharf, the embrace of fun is an act of defiance, his considered use of unconventional materials, bright color palette, and playful shapes a protest against restrictive cultural conditions. In his latest body of work, the Born Again paintings, Scharf encapsulates this notion of transforming the mundane by inserting his familiar characters and motifs into found amateur paintings. Akin to his earlier customizations of mass-produced objects like phones, washers, and televisions, here it is the discarded artwork that is repurposed. While still humorously absurdest in tone, some of the works such as FUKISHIMA LANDING and TAR BEACH, with their lurking monsters and dark blobs interrupting peaceful seascapes and nature scenes, also reference the artist’s longstanding themes of anxiety in the nuclear age and the effects of pollution. Also included in this exhibition are the Space Vomit assemblages, where surfaces are embedded with defunct objects, fragments of toys, ads, and other miscellanea collected over the years. Frozen in various states of visual erosion, the surfaces both find inspiration from, and are commentary on the detritus of contemporary American culture.
This exhibition also marks the debut of Scharf’s early videos, made between 1979-1984 and recently digitally transferred and enhanced from their original analog videotape format. Presented in the gallery within multiple set-like installations, the videos were made during the artist’s formative years in the East Village and stand as vital documents of that era’s art scene with collaborations with figures such as Keith Haring and Ann Magnuson. While many are informal sketches and experimental in nature, THE SPARKL END and its sequel CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS demonstrate the first occasions where Scharf began to explore themes that would inform his work for decades: man’s effect on nature and a retro-futuristic vision of the Space Age. Both shown in the recent exhibition Urban Theater: New York Art of the 1980s at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, THE SPARKL END features young partiers who experience nuclear destruction, while CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS shows the surviving revelers who escape peril by leaving for outer space. Accompanying the videos are collages from the same period. Originally intended to be reproduced on Xerox machines and distributed at art shows and across the city, these works on paper contain images appropriated from advertisements and magazines, and were a critical step for Scharf in the development of his iconic, populist vernacular