Kenny Scharf opened his exhibition 'Kolors' last night at Paul Kasmin Gallery. It was a colorful affair complete with a particularly delicious collaboration between Scharf and The Doughnut Plant. Known for his colorful paintings, murals, and close friendships with artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat during the East Village art scene of the 1980s, Scharf was one of the first artists to inject street culture into mainstream contemporary art. He continues to incorporate imagery from cartoons and pop culture into his exuberant painting and sculptures. Scharf took some time out of his day to answer a few questions about his work and new exhibition.
Let's start from the beginning. How did you get your start making art?
My earliest memory was finger painting in nursery school. I can remember vividly the excitement I felt and the visuals like it was yesterday.
You're from LA - do you think being from there influences your work?
Growing up in LA definitely influenced my art. I was constantly being bombarded with imagery that spoke of the space age in cars, architecture, and media. The colors and imagery are still fresh in my mind.
Then you came to New York and became friends with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. What drew you to each other?
Fate - they were some of my first friends I made immediately upon arrival.
With Keith you made blacklight installations called 'cosmic closets,' which eventually caught the interest of the Whitney, who then asked you to recreate it for their Biennial. How did that come about and what was that like?
Keith and I lived in a decrepit townhouse near Bryant Park - I converted an old large closet into an installation after I came upon a blacklight and began to put items from the street garbage into the room and painted them florescent. It began to grow and became the "closet," and then the "cosmic cavern." It became the site of a lot of fun parties!
A lot of your work prominently features cartoons characters and pop iconography. What about that interests you?
That I own these icons because they are personal to me, yet they are also shared by millions!
You have a series of doughnut paintings. What about doughnuts interests you?
They look good, taste good, yet are bad for you. They have a hole in the middle and resemble the universe. Some scientists think the universe is shaped like a doughnut. They are the ultimate good-to-look-at, bad-for-you consumer object. They're fun to paint.
Through your work you have developed a fully formed world with characters. You've translated this into animation in the past - will you be making more in the future?
I would very much love to make more animation.
You've made a few sculptures: one for your show at Honor Fraser and your sculpture at the Standard Hotel. What is it like seeing your characters move from the 2D realm to 3D?
Ive actually made many sculptures over the past 30 years, but these new ones are different and I think more successful in their bright, colorful, shiny boldness. It is natural for me considering all the paintings incorporate imagery that has a "3D" look.
You often refer to yourself as a customizer and have transformed objects ranging from household appliances to Cadillacs. What about that interests you?
Taking everyday usable objects and turning them into art is a great way of incorporating the everyday task and transforming it into a magical art experience, thereby uplifting the banal into beauty and experience.
Tell me about your collaboration with Kiehl's - what was it like to make over a product as iconic as the Crème de Corps? How was that process?
It was great to work with Kiehl's as they have such a good graphics team - they made it super easy for me!
What are some of your new inspirations and what are you looking forward to?
I am very exited about the present and future. Besides my show opening next week, I am about to make another mural in NYC on Hudson and 14th Street, I'm showing in a "futures" exhibit in the museum in Mobile Alabama in May as well as painting a mural there, and I am also customizing a 70s Pontiac in a new and very exiting way as well as some other fun stuff that I can't mention yet!
This post has been updated to include the time-lapse video:
I wish that after writing this post, I could encourage readers to head to Feature Inc. to witness Kylin O'Brien's ethereal creation, Amo Legomandala, but alas, the experience lasted for just three days and now lives on in photo and video documentation.
Drawing upon the tradition of Tibetan sand mandalas, Kylin created a mandala entirely of LEGOs on the floor of the 131 Allen Street gallery. The Tibetan Buddhist ritual of creating and subsequently destroying an ornate sand mandala after careful construction was playfully redone with children's construction pieces. Using a medicine mandala as inspiration, Kylin and her assistants (which included our fabulous intern, Jillian) mapped out the mandala over the course of several months, meticulously measuring and structuring the piece. Finally, the LEGO mandala was constructed on the gallery floor over a three-day period.
Kylin's mandala was unveiled at the opening reception on Friday, March 22nd, during which attendees carefully walked around the massive structure, maintaining several feet between themselves and the freely-lying blocks on the ground so as not to disturb the structure. (When a woman walked into the gallery with a dog in her arms, Jillian and I both had momentary heart palpitations as we imagined the dog streaking through the center of the piece...a recurring nightmare of Jillian's in the days leading up to the show!)
After a full-day viewing on Saturday, all were invited back on Sunday the 24th to transform the piece and assist in its disassembly - or reassembly, depending on how you view it. Viewers took an active part in changing the entire structure of the piece, experiencing what Feature Inc. called an "opportunity to become aware of our contribution to collaborative change."
Jillian commented that the finished, modified product was reminiscent of a "futuristic space station." The atmosphere during Sunday's reconstruction was quiet and calm as participants fell under the spell of the thousands of colored blocks.
The full process - from the build-out of the original piece to the ultimate deconstruction - was recorded with an overhead camera in the gallery; a time-lapse video will soon be released to document the experience.
In the meantime, here is an installation shot from the calm before the storm at Friday night's opening. Congratulations to Kylin on a beautifully whimsical and innovative installation.
Photograph by Morgan Jacobs
Exciting update on the Louis Vuitton/ Yayoi Kusama collaboration! In conjunction with the launch of the capsule collection, seven pop-up shops will open around the country to offer a luxe shopping experience with a Kusama flare.
The first pop-up shop will open in New York on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Paris, and London will soon follow suit.
The pop-up stores will remain open for one to two months and offer a range of spotted trench coats, handbags, and other accessories created by Kusama for Louis Vuitton. The European branches will offer exclusive tentacle-festooned handbags two months ahead of their scheduled October launch date.
WHO: Ian Bradley and Ryan McGinley
WHAT: Hanging outside the opening for iO Tillett Wright
WHERE: The Hole
When: May 30
On Wednesday evening Ryan McGinley showcased his newest work, Animals and Grids, at both Team Gallery locations. Animals featured nude studio portraits of friends and models with their animal of choice, leading to humorous, beautiful, occasionally painful, and generally unpredictable results. Grids, a much more emotional and intimate-feeling body of work, focuses on close-up portraits of young fans at concerts.
Atlas Sound played a brief but fun set on the rooftop of the Wooster Street location, which was shut down but then moved into the gallery. See below for more photos and video!
A crowded Wooster St.
This Sunday was our first Avant Garde Preschool class! The Avant Garde Preschool program was originally started by Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti, owners of Partners & Spade, a storefront and studio on Great Jones Street in Manhattan. Catering to children ages 5-12, the program has previously been led by artists such as Karen Kimmel, Donald Baechler, and Confetti System.
To kick off the new partnership between Partners & Spade and RxArt, Dan Colen hosted the inaugural class. The young participants spent a fun-filled afternoon using brightly colored flower petals and an assortment of M&M's to create vibrant, nontraditional works of art. Dan encouraged the kids to create their works using whatever methods came to mind, reminding them that when it comes to art, there are "no rules". While some of the kids stuck to the "traditional" method of working while seated at the table, many kids created their masterpieces by putting the materials on the floor and jumping up and down on the paper!
We can't say we had as much fun cleaning it up as we had creating it ( check out Partners & Spade's "Aftermath" photos to see why!), but a great afternoon was had by all and we are so thankful to Dan Colen for leading such an amazing class and Partners & Spade for hosting us!
(*The cost of the class was $40 per child and all proceeds went directly to RxArt.)
Looking for a unique gift for your favorite baby or little artist? Head on over to Little Collector's pop-up holiday shop Saturday, December 10th from 2-5 pm at 195 Chrystie Street, 7th floor for holiday treats, gift wrapping, and discounts on framed prints. All art prints are affordably priced and framed, so they're ready to hang immediately. We have our eye on prints by RxArt artists and coloring book collaborators Shepard Fairey, David Levinthal, Jason Middlebrook, Cynthia Rowley, and Trey Speegle. In addition, a portion of all proceeds are donated to RxArt. What a great message to give to kids this holiday season: that the cool art hanging on their wall helps to bring installations to hospitals in New York and around the country!
RxArt spent the weekend in Greenwich, CT for the opening of David Altmajd's exhibition of sculptures at the Brant Foundation.
Who: Ben Blatt
What: Signing copies of Between the Lines Vol. III
When: Thursday at the Pop-Up Shop Kick-Off Party!
Where: Half Gallery
'Night Scented Stock', a surreal, three-story, five-room show curated by Todd Levin featuring haunting offerings from 67 artists ranging from Matthew Barney to Hans Bellmer, showed Wednesday at Marianne Boesky Gallery.
The title draws its name from a nocturnal flower. Once night falls, the Night Scented Stock emits an intoxicating aroma that attracts an array of night’s creatures – insects, bats, moths and birds – with its scent.
Among the artists showing were RxArt friends Aurel Schmidt and Diana Al-Hadid. The show presented a wide variety of work but the common thread that tied it all together were themes of the grotesque and fantastic.
Go see it while you still can!
“Night Scented Stock,” curated by Todd Levin, at Marianne Boesky Gallery, 118 East 64 St., Opening September 14, through October 22, marianneboeskygallery.com
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Avant Garde Preschool with Dan Colen