Etching with hand-painting
45 3/4 x 55 5/8 in.
Edition of 20
Pencil signed and numbered
About the work:
Spontaneity and fun are the heart of Kenny Scharf’s artwork
Kenny Scharf moved to New York City in the late 1970s, and his work embodies the spirit of that time. It was a “golden age” that continued through the early 1980s, in which Pop, New Wave, graffiti and the urban art scene collided. During this explosive period the artist first learned to use spray paint, and master this newfound medium. He would bomb the length of Manhattan between his studio at PS1 in Queens and his home in the East Village, leaving the avenues covered with his characters.
Like his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny was inspired by graffiti’s freedom and the direct connection street art gave him to people outside of the art world. “It was a natural reaction for us to take it to the streets and the nightclubs and let loose and not take yourself too seriously because that is stifling!” Kenny is driven by his belief that art should be appreciated for the experience. This is particularly obvious through his use of images of cartoonish figures.
This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Space Traveler by Kenny Scharf. The piece reflects the impulse and speed of the artist working in the street, and the signature cartoon-like character whizzing through a cosmic galaxy is instantly recognizable. This trademark Cosmic Cavern image, created with what could be Day-Glo or bright colored paint is a style that the artist started experimenting with in the 80’s.
The cartoon images expertly bring popular culture into the fine arts, and Scharf has been pushing the line between high and low art since his days spray-painting lower Manhattan. His true genius, however, lies in his ability to create a distinct, otherworldly color palette, as if looking inside a tremendous bubble made of candy colored beings. The work is playful, but make no mistake: This isn’t child’s play.
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 unconscious except that my unconscious is filled with pop imagery. My unconscious is pop, so therefore the art would be Pop-Surrealism.”
Space Traveler is a very large work. It is an etching with hand painting. A very small edition of only 20 pieces, each piece is unique. The only printed part of the work is the black. Every color on each different piece is all hand painted.