Kenny Scharf came to prominence in the early 1980s as a New York street artist, and over the years, his interdisciplinary practice has comprised clothing design, sculpture, installations, and video as well as painting—on walls and on canvas. Aspiring to reach a broad audience, Scharf has not shied away from commercial collaborations and merchandising, and working in the public realm has also expanded his reach as an artist. Improvised on the spot, his public murals convey a frenetic energy, reflecting his fast-paced production process, which stems from his early, unsanctioned work and the need to move quickly before being caught by the police. Even in a museum or gallery setting, Scharf stays true to those roots, retaining that sense of spontaneity in his work.
As part of the first generation to grow up with television, Scharf is interested in the immediacy of popular imagery, particularly cartoon characters. These familiar, almost universally understood figures convey complex emotions through simple means and can suggest movement even in static images. Drawing on American cartoons from the 1960s like The Jetsons and The Flintstones as well as the work of fine artists such as Yves Tanguy, Scharf has developed a cast of original cartoon characters that recur in his work. Incorporating vivid colors, he employs the expressive faces and inherent energy of his characters to effectively communicate with viewers.
Hammer Projects: Kenny Scharf is organized by curator Ali Subotnick with Emily Gonzalez-Jarrett, curatorial associate.
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