Bombastic and fantastic – those two words immediately zapped into my thoughts once I walked into the opening of Kenny Scharf’s new exhibition “KOLORS” at Paul Kasmin on 27th Street last April 4th. If you want color and I must confess I am a color fanatic when it comes to art, this is a veritable feast for your senses.
Scharf is one of the prominent artists that brought street into contemporary art and the hallmark touches are even more apparent and reintroduced to new fans while keeping those longtime followers piqued with his recent oeuvre on view. The ten new paintings and three sculptures animated the space and his exuberance is unbound based on the intensity and playfulness that still resonates after more than thirty years.
The paintings inspired by color fields could be initially viewed as backdrops for the monolithic happy sculptures in the high ceilinged space. (I use happy here relatively because upon closer and longer examination of those wide smiles and Seuss like forms that it can also be objects of a colorful nightmare at a turn of a dime.) However, the paintings are biomorphic worlds as you take time to inhabit the picture plane of the airbrushed quality of Scharf’s skillful application. There is that old adage about contemporary art that some artists that lack skill hide their multitude of sins by the obnoxious utilization of color. In Scharf’s case, we see none of the trite intentions or deceptions by his use of color as they are inherent to the nature of his works. It simply is demanded by what he does and developed over the years. There is a sense of the bright assault and statement of color as being used by street artists to tag themselves apart from the pack. Does he allude to that part of his artistry? Probably in some shades but these are more ebullient and ambitious works that command careful consideration. The sculptures are likewise developments of iconic imagery and signatures that he developed in the course of his artistic arc and journey. They dominate and titillate all at once. Color in the right dose and skillful applications are a thrill instead of overkill. Kenny Scharf can still bring on the thrill.
Is it cool again to know Kenny Scharf and his twisted color world? Cool is something you always have within you and you don’t pander to the fashion of the times or its conventions. In that sense, Kenny Scharf is cool to the core and in living color, too.
Kenny Scharf: Kolors / On View: April 4 – May 4, 2013
Gallery Schedule: Tuesday – Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Paul Kasmin Gallery. 515 West 27th Street. NYC, NY 10001
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
art images from Paul Kasmin Gallery courtesy of the artist
event photography by: Max Noy