Honor Fraser is pleased to present Hodgepodge, Kenny Scharf’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
For this exhibition, Scharf has created several new bodies of work that survey his particular aesthetic approaches and sensibilities. The show features paintings, sculptures, a Cosmic Cavern installation, and a customized Cadillac, as well as an opening night performance by longtime friend and frequent collaborator, Ann Magnuson.
As a child Scharf was fascinated by television and consumer culture. Sitting only inches from the television screen, young Scharf became obsessed with vibrant and surreal imagery of cartoons and low budget sci-fi films. Optimism oozed from these dewy forms of popular culture, reflecting an era when the medium of television was still new and shiny. The outlook towards the future during the 1950s and early 1960s was a lustrous one filled with invention, cutting-edge products, space travel, and an unabashed vision of a better life. Coming on the heels of World War II, the hopefulness of this era was authentic. Various new industries and the jobs they developed were flourishing alongside the comforts of peace and suburbia. There was an aura of progress and prosperity, creating a seemingly realistic expectation of eternal euphoria. This feeling of positivity unhinged is threaded throughout all of the works in Hodgepodge.
While a young artist living in New York in the 1980s, Scharf and other artists of his generation were drawn to works originating from contexts outside gallery spaces. Whether that was graffiti, performances, or parties at the famous Club 57, Scharf sought to incorporate his works within situations that anyone and everyone could relate to and more importantly, experience. Like Warhol before him, Scharf became interested in merging the highbrow with the lowbrow, and began working towards ways of incorporating pop-culture into his paintings. As a way to rebel against the highly academic work that was being shown at the time, Scharf’s work reflected an Eden filled with animated colors and fantastical subjects ranging from the Flintstones and the Jetsons, to imaginary characters that could cast either gloom or euphoria onto the desired canvas.
This characteristically bold, sci-fi, 1950s-inspired iconography layers The New and Improved Ultima Suprema Deluxa (2012), a customized 1959 Cadillac. The car has been painted in a hybrid of sea and powder blue, with a band of space creatures having taken hold, including some oft-appropriated characters from The Jetsons cartoon series. This historic symbol of luxury and progress has been turned into a vehicle in which to ride out the Apocalypse in style as it crashes into another sculpture, Pikaboom (2012), a “picnic table” of sorts with an atomic mushroom cloud cum umbrella exploding from it. Like much of Scharf’s work, these pieces take on notions of creation and destruction, acting out an eternal struggle between the natural and the man-made.
In his numerous hanging Lixo sculptures, Scharf makes use of the washed up trash he collects from the beaches near his studio in Brazil (“lixo” is the Portuguese word for trash). Resurfaced and discolored from overexposure to the sun, sea and sand, these otherwise disregarded objects have long been an integral part of Scharf’s practice. By transforming the “lixo” into ornaments of wonder and nostalgia, they become emblematic of Scharf’s own fascination with the material’s often ignored qualities. Whether it’s household appliances, common detritus, cartoon characters, or automobiles, Kenny finds value in our outdated cultural artifacts, offering them an alternative existence in his psychedelic, Hodgepodge world.
Scharf currently lives and works in New York, Los Angeles, and Brazil. His work can be found in major museums and collections, including the Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Eli Broad Foundation, MOCA Los Angeles and the Stedelijik Museum. In 2009, a comprehensive catalog of his work was authored by art historian Richard Marshall and published by Rizzoli. Most recently, in 2011, Scharf’s work was featured in the MOCA LA’s Art in the Streets exhibition. Recent exhibitions were presented at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (2011), and The Hole, New York (2010).