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 Kenny Scharf  (1958 - )

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mod-pop whimsy, non ob, sculptor

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Ad Code: 2
Kenny Scharf
from Auction House Records.
The Days of Our Lives
© 2001 Kenny Scharf / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The art of Kenny Scharf is most widely associated with the Pop-Art* movement of the late 1970's.  He is known for his paintings that employ surrealistic imagery inspired by television, cartoons and the club culture he experienced during his youth.

Scharf was born in Hollywood, California, in 1958, and was interested in art as a child. His first exposure to Surrealism* occurred in the 1960's when he saw a book on Salvador Dali.  Around the age of twelve, Scharf took painting lessons at a local art store in Los Angeles where he learned how to paint still lifes.  After high school he attended the University of California at Santa Barbara where he studied history and art. In 1978, he moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts*. It was there that Scharf met artist friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

During his academic years his art developed a more futuristic theme reflecting his childhood fascination with American television.  In 1979 he had his first solo exhibition at Fiorucci in New York City.  Scarf also engaged in many alternative artistic ventures such as performance art* and group productions with his band of friends that included Andy Warhol and other artists and musicians. 

In 1983 Scharf held a one-man show at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York, which provided him with the level of recognition his close friends had already experienced. Later that year his work appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in 1985 at the Whitney Biennial* show.

During the late 1980's and 1990's, Scharf actively exhibited his art nationally and internationally and constantly experimented with textures within his ever-evolving pop-surrealist style.  In 1992 Scharf, his wife and daughters moved to Miami Beach, Florida, where he continued to exhibit his art.  He eventually designed and marketed a clothing and accessory line based on his artwork, reflecting his principles of making affordable art available to the public.  He continues to be a prolific artist and his viewable work is often incorporated in shows based on the art movements with which he and his well-known friends were involved.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from
Kenny Scharf, born in Hollywood, California in 1958, first came to artistic prominence in the early 1980s in New York, along with artists Keith Haring and Basquiat.  Scharf placed his bright imagery, drawn from television and pop culture, on the streets and in nightclubs of the city, helping to nurture a dynamic and freewheeling scene.

Scharf calls his art Pop Surrealism: "Surrealism is about the unconscious, and I feel my work is about the unconscious.  The images come from the unconcious except that my unconscious is filled with pop imagery.  My unconscious is pop, so therefore the art would be Pop-Surrealism."

Scharf is a prolific artist who has worked in many traditional media, including painting, printmaking, drawing and sculpture; he has also designed lifeguard stations, Zippo lighters, watches, cellphones, carpets and carnival carousels.  He is currently working on an animated film series in Hollywood.

Scharf has exhibited widely, including the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Bienalle de Sao Paolo, Brazil, Tony Shafrazi Gallery and Queens Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, and the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Kenny Scharf is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
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