October 14, 2001–January 13, 2002
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents two major paintings and a series of thirty painted "cels" by American artist Kenny Scharf. Installed in P.S.1's duplex gallery, Scharf's "cels" (frames that comprise an animated cartoon) are part of a series of designs for The Universals, an animated television special that will debut on the Cartoon Network in Spring 2002. This exhibition also features The Last Painting of the Century (1999) and Ultrazoomazipzamapopdeluxa (1998), two large paintings depicting retro-futuristic worlds of animated plants, monsters, abstract forms, and graffiti. This exhibition is curated by P.S.1 Director Alanna Heiss.
The Universals (1998-2000) quote Scharf's own Pop Surrealist style and adds narrative to his characteristic combination of earth and space, and of the natural and the artificial. In 1999, Scharf initiated a series of notebook-sized paintings that became his "pitch book" for an animated television show that he brought to the Cartoon Network. These paintings present a boldly colored world of alien lounge singers, flying saucers en route to modified ziggurats, and one-eyed nymphs bounding naked through nuclear landscapes. The Universals were initially presented to the public in the form of mannequins, modeling clothes in the windows of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store. With this television show, Scharf continues his effort to incorporate his fantastical art into everyday life.
The Last Painting of the Century (1999) and Ultrazoomazipzamapopdeluxa (1998), two large acrylic, oil, and spray paint works, use figurative and abstract elements to represent energy, motion, and the relationship between reality and imagination, freedom and control. The Last Painting of the Century is, in the artist's words, "One last big hurrah for the last century" that evokes themes in 20th-century art: the grid, speed, and surrealism. Ultrazoomazipzamapopdeluxa, painted in public in the lobby of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, is a twenty-two foot long scene of curling vines, suspended spheres and animated shapes moving across a multicolored background pierced by windows looking out to the cosmos.
Kenny Scharf was born in 1958 in Los Angeles, California, where he lives and works. He moved to New York in 1978 to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he befriended Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose art was also shaped by TV imagery, Pop Art and street culture. He was a P.S.1 Artist-in-Residence in 1981-1982, and his work was shown at P.S.1 in New York, New Wave (1981) and Space Invaders (1982). Blurring the line between high and low art, Scharf exhibited work in storefronts and tagged Manhattan sidewalks with popular cartoon characters, and his art became internationally known during the 1980s. He has had solo exhibitions at The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art; the Center for the Fine Arts, Miami; University Galleries at Illinois State Univ., Normal,Illinois; and the Monterrey Museum of Art, Mexico. In May 1997, Scharf was the first artist, other than Salvador Dalí, to have a solo exhibition at the Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.