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Kenny Scharf’s current exhibition “Kolors” is a ‘60s space dream of paint explosions and slick crystal eyed, white toothed sculptures, all currently on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery through May 4. Whitewall caught up with him to speak about “Kolors,” Doughnuts, and Emoticons.
WW: Has the ideal aesthetic of the future changed for you compared to your youthful ideas of it growing up in L.A.?
KS: Of course the vision of the future has changed since my childhood that’s why I decided in the ‘70s when that vision died that I was going to continue with the fantasy. So, I did.
WW: You’ve discussed your work in terms of Pop Surrealism. If you’re unconscious mind is filled with pop imagery, what kind of imagery fills your dreams?
KS: My unconscious mind and my dreams are filled with pop imagery. I think the basis for a true Surrealist is to show the world what goes on inside. It just so happens that my mind is filled with popular imagery.
WW: You speak a lot of what New York was like in the ‘80s for a young artist in terms of the freedom and cheap rent. Do you think we will ever be able to get back to that, in Brooklyn, Queens or on the West Coast?
KS: I think in order to get back to those days of cheap rents and accessibility for young artists to be able to make it work without having lots of money. When the economy is in shambles and money no longer really exists the way we know, it will open doors for a lot of artists who don’t have money.
WW: You designed an album cover for the B52s, is there a current band you would be interested in creating artwork for?
KS: I did design the album cover for the B-52s bouncing off the satellites only one and I am very proud of it because I always wanted to do an album cover and the B-52s were and still are my favorite band! I would be interested in doing other album covers. I’ve done a few here and there because I like a lot of music, but I have to say the music of the B-52s is really in line with so much of my imagery.
WW: Color is very implicit to your work, could you picture yourself in a black and white world?
KS: No, I could not picture myself in a black–and–white world although I wouldn’t mind entering the black-and-white world. It would be very interesting as long as it wasn’t all gray. I like the idea of having the contrast of the blacks and whites.
WW: In your work we see a cast of different characters or faces you’ve created. In your painting Klobz, the characters almost act as paint globs reacting in an explosion, are these characters male/female or are they genderless?
KS: Most of my characters encompass the male and female. They can be genderless, asexual, or sexual. It’s up to the viewer to decide that.
WW: I would like to see a Kenny Scharf collaboration with Emoji. Are you a fan of Emoji or Emoticons?
KS: I could definitely see a series of emoticons with my expressions. I like to demonstrate every emotion and I think it would lend itself well for that.
WW: Let’s talk about your collaboration with Kreemart and NYC’s Doughnut Plant. Also, what is your favorite doughnut?
KS: I think my favorite donut would be the first one. After the second, third, or fourth, I start to have less of a favorite and I love donuts and Kreemart is really fun to work with!
Kenny Scharf was born in 1958 in Hollywood, California and rose to prominence alongside his friends and contemporaries in the 1980s, most notably, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Scharf was a pioneer among artists who integrated street culture into the contemporary art mainstream, incorporating pop and comic imagery in his sculpture, installation and paintings. His love of popular culture recalls his life-long fascination with television and his early exposure to the medium as a child. Scharf lived and worked in New York City as a young artist, eager to merge the high and lowbrow, the fantastic and the imaginary. Scharf ultimately established himself as a master of iconic imagery within the field of contemporary art. Scharf’s work is included in numerous public and private collections and has been exhibited internationally at museums and institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Eli Broad Foundation, MOCA Los Angeles and the Stedelijik Museum. Scharf lives and works in Los Angeles, California.