Art Los Angeles Contemporary

January 25, 2018 —
January 28, 2018



Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present a selection of paintings and sculptures by Kenny Scharf at Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

Kenny Scharf emerged out of the Street Art scene of New York in the 1980s though formally educated at an art school. Early on, he was disenchanted by the reverence for abstract painting and frustrated by the expectation that art had to be shown in galleries to be taken seriously. In response, he wrote Jetsonism Is Nirvana in 1981 and took an improvisational approach to artmaking. He clandestinely created his work on the side of buildings, aiming to bring levity and joy to the gritty streets of New York. Alongside friends Susan Hannaford, Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson, and Tom Scully, he participated in performances and exhibitions at the underground Club 57—the subject of an exhibition currently at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It was a place for experimentation and escapism from the realities of the AIDS pandemic and conservative politics. To this day, Scharf's work continues to convey a sense of humor and absurdity that belies his earnest rebellion from the mainstream art scene of his younger years.

A product of Southern California, early Modernism, and the Cold War, Kenny Scharf's work touches upon media, space exploration, environmentalism, and Surrealism. Imagery by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera influenced the artist as much as that by Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dalí. Scharf appreciates cartoons for their ability to immediately convey emotions and to seep into the collective psyche. In art school, he unabashedly borrowed characters from The Flintstones and The Jetsons before creating his own original characters, which will be featured in Honor Fraser's booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

In Blob N' Space (2005), Scharf depicts interlocking liquid forms floating against a starscape. The Space Race fueled a national preoccupation with what planets or other life forms may exist, but this also gives way to terrestrial concerns. The search for new livable environments like Cosmiganic (1996) implies a need to escape our current world due to the depletion of natural resources. This drive to travel beyond Earth also led to many technological advances, inadvertently creating growing piles of obsolete objects as a byproduct. Attempting to salvage some of this waste, Scharf uses the backs of older television sets as the faces for his characters. Sometimes sinister, sometimes happy, the repurposed trash is given a new life and value as artwork.

The worth, monetary and psychic, of objects has been a concern of Scharf's for many years. Once told that he could not paint with a certain color by a professor, the artist continues to question seemingly arbitrary value systems and those who uphold them. Through his work, Kenny Scharf argues for the value of joy, surprise, and living on the periphery.

Kenny Scharf was born in 1958 in Los Angeles and lives in Los Angeles. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1980. Honor Fraser Gallery has presented five exhibitions of Scharf's work to date: BLOX and BAX (2017); Born Again (2015); Pop Renaissance (2013); Hodgepodge (2012); and Barberadise (2009). One-person exhibitions of Scharf's work have been presented at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, NY (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015); Portland Art Museum, OR (2015); Pasadena Museum of California Art, CA (2004); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (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, FL (1995) among others. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); Holdings: Selections from MCASD's Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA (2016); and Urban Theater: New York in the 1980s, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX (2014). Upcoming exhibitions include Scharftopia: The Far-Out World of Kenny Scharf at the Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN in 2018 and a career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, AZ in 2020.

Scharf's public artworks are on view at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Los Angeles; Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA; Davis Bros Tire Pros, Culver City, CA; West Adams Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles; Pasadena Museum of California Art, CA; and other locations around the world.

Scharf is included in public collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.