LIFE&STYLE

Pop artist Kenny Scharf brings visual chaos to Seoul

By Shim Woo-hyun

‘A lot of what I do is celebrating the future that did not happen’

  • Published : Oct 4, 2018 - 13:30
  • Updated : Oct 4, 2018 - 13:30

American pop artist Kenny Scharf’s solo exhibition “Super Pop Universe,” which launched Wednesday at the Lotte Museum of Art in Seoul, opens up a whole new universe for viewers and encourages them to reflect on reality.

A visual celebration of the daily lives of people and the world they inhabit, Scharf’s paintings and sculptures are colorful and witty -- for the most part. The world that the artist presents requires a bit of effort to comprehend, however. 

Installation view of Kenny Scharf’s “Cosmic Cavern” (Yonhap)

The world depicted by Scharf could be seen as a surreal representation of a world headed toward doomsday.

“I am still exploring this scenario about the end of the world. It’s one of my obsessions. It’s not like I want the world to end. It’s just that I am worried about it,” said Scharf at a press conference at the Lotte Museum of Art on Tuesday. “A lot of what I do is straddling between the joy of life and the fear of everything being over,” he said.

US pop artist Kenny Scharf speaks at a press conference at the Lotte Museum of Art in Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Artist Kenny Scharf spray-paints a car in front of the Lotte World Tower. The performance was part of his “Karbombz” series. (Yonhap)

The Los Angeles-born pop artist has earned international recognition through underground performances and experimental exhibitions. Scharf, 59, is also well known for having worked with other famous pop-art figures such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

“Super Pop Universe” starts with photos of Club 57, a gathering space and performance venue in the basement of an East Village church. Last year, Scharf held a solo exhibition featuring Club 57 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“It was very exciting moment. A lot of young artists making things happen without a large audience. We did not realize at that time that it will be looked at the way it is now,” Scharf said.

The Seoul exhibition includes his signature installation “Cosmic Cavern,” which took the artist 10 days to set up here. The psychedelic installation grabbed headlines when it premiered at the 1985 Whitney Biennial in New York.

“I am not trying to make everyone think about garbage and pollution these days. I kind of invite the person and myself to escape reality into a world of intense color and visual pleasure. If the viewer chooses look further, they can start to look at materials being used, and realize that it is garbage and it’s plastic garbage,” Scharf said.

The psychedelic and futuristic expressions in his works stem from his childhood experience, according to Scharf.

“Basically, it has to do with my obsession with outer space and my obsession with the design and products of my childhood that gave me this idea that we really were going to space,” Scharf said in explaining “Tang,” a 2007 work featuring the fruit-flavored drink of the same name, which was used on NASA’s manned space flights in the 1960s.

The exhibition runs through March 3 next year.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)