On November 23, Kenny Paul Scharf is born in Hollywood, California. His parents are both first generation Americans of eastern European descent. His father Roy Scharf, born in Brooklyn, New York is in the garment business; his mother Rose, born in Montreal, Canada is a home-maker. His parents are both first generation Americans of Eastern European descent. Scharf grows up in the suburban San Fernando Valley surrounded by space age architecture and popular Southern California design of the 1950's and early 60's.
In kindergarten, his earliest works are advanced for his age and the praise he receives from his teacher inspires him to continue making artwork.
Scharf develops a life long passion for television, which is reflected in the depictions of Hanna Barbera cartoon imagery and American television culture in his artwork.
Scharf creates an artist book called Book Of Everything, which consists of drawings of inventions, inspired by the Flintstone and Jetson cartoons. One work depicts a turtle mop on a grooved floor for the turtles feet with the quote: "Very good for household wives but you kind of have to have a funny floor for it."
Scharf's introduction to art comes from family subscriptions to Time Life books on artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters. His introduction to Surrealism comes later from a neighbor's book on Salvador Dali.
The Scharf family gets their first color television. Kenny Scharf remembers sitting inches away from the screen, staring at the glowing colored dots.
At summer camp, Kenny Scharf creates a store comprising of clay hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries, similar to artist Claes Oldenberg's work.
On Saturdays, Kenny rides his bicycle to the nearby Flemish art shop on Ventura Boulevard where he is supervised in oil paintings of still life. At home he paints from art postcards, or photographs in his family’s National Geographic and Time Life books.
Kenny Scharf attends Hebrew school three days a week until his Bar Mitzvah at fourteen, which is followed by a trip to Israel where he is awed by the Red Sea, the desert, and all that is ancient and holy.
The Scharf Family moves to Camden Drive in Beverly Hills and Kenny attends Beverly Hills High School. Without the Hollywood pedigree of classmates such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Shawn Cassidy, Kenny has difficulty adjusting and he takes advantage of the school's excellent arts curriculum and unlimited art supplies. His paintings of this period are greatly influenced by the artist Rene Magritte.
Kenny Scharf graduates high school and attends University of California at Santa Barbara. He studies art history, printmaking and painting, fulfilling his general education requirements. His paintings of this period, such as Barbara Simpson's New Kitchen are influenced by the television and media culture of his early childhood.
Kenny Scharf moves to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts. He takes courses in photo-realist painting, airbrush, video making and editing, photography and collage. At SVA he meets artists with similar philosophies. Begins his life-long friendship with Keith Haring who Scharf meets in sculpture class and would later live, paint and exhibit along side; John McLaughlin who went on to fame as the pompadour-coiffed lounge singer John Sex, and Jean Michel-Basquiat, better known at the time as the graffiti tagger SAMO, who periodically sleeps on Scharf's couch and sneaks into the SVA cafeteria to hang out with other artists. Tragically, all of these close friends, and many others, die within a few years of each other, ten years later.
At "Celebrating the Space Age," an exhibition of Scharf's new wave work at Club 57, Kenny meets John Abeam, who invites him to participate in the "Times Square Show." Scharf invites friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Artists include Kiki Smith, John Ahearn, and Tom Otterness. Scharf's customized air conditioning unit is reproduced in a review in Art in America.
Scharf has first solo exhibition, The Estelle Series at Fiorucci NYC. The works detail the adventures of Estelle, a jet set woman of the future. The opening included a performance with Klaus Nomi, the avant-garde, new wave, Bavarian opera singer.
Kenny becomes very involved with the social scene in the East Village nightclubs, Club 57 and The Mudd Club. Scharf's Club 57 group includes Ann Magnuson, Keith Haring, John Sex, and Min Thometz; The Mudd Club regulars include Fun Gallery owner Patti Astor, critic Rene Ricard and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Steve Mass, The Mudd Club's owner invites Scharf and friends to work at The Mudd Club. Scharf and John Sex host playboy night where they masquerade as the Ascot Brothers, Min Thometz becomes a bartender, and Keith Haring the curator for an upstairs gallery where many artists and friends are invited to exhibit.
Scharf concentrates on performance work including a band with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias which performs at clubs such as Max's Kansas City, and The Batusi Brothers with Ann Magnuson and John Sex and Min Thometz Sanchez.
Kenny Scharf begins customizing appliances under the pseudonym, Van Chrome.
In February, he participates in Diego Cortez's historical exhibition, New York, New Wave at P.S. 1.
In April, Scharf is included in "Beyond Words: Graffiti Based-Rooted-Inspired Works" at The Mudd Club. Artists include: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tseng Kwong Chi, Crash Daze and Iggy Pop.
In June, Scharf graduates from the School of Visual Arts with his bachelor in fine arts degree.
In the fall, Scharf titles Patti Astor's Fun Gallery and proceeds to exhibit his Jetson and Flintstone paintings there.
Scharf exhibits Hanna Barbera influenced cartoon paintings including Judy on the Beach and The Flintstones in a two person exhibition with Futura 2000 at Tony Shafrazi Gallery.
Scharf starts to evolve away from Hanna Barbera imagery towards his own biomorphic cartoon hybrids. Scharf's imagery arises from incredible occurrence of when The Flintstones representing the past, and The Jetson's representing the future collide in an imaginary "time-splat" resulting in infinite mutations.
On a plane trip to Bahia, Brazil with Brazilian artist Bruno Schmidt, Kenny meets Tereza Goncalves, his future wife.
He has first solo exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery. This exhibition propels Scharf's recognition to the level enjoyed by friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Major works include The Fun's Inside, Felix on a Pedestal, and Plasmospace, acquired by The Morton Neuman Family Collection, and In Ecstasy, acquired by The Dannheiser Foundation.
The Whitney Museum of American Art shows his work for the first time in "The Comic Art Show." Other important shows this year include the "Bienalle de Sao Paolo" in Brazil and "Tendancies en Nueva York" at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid. The latter show, organized by Carmen Gimenez, includes Susan Rothenburg, Julian Schnabel, David Salle and Keith Haring. At the opening and during the time of the exhibition, the waiting line grows out of the galleries and into the park--nearly a quarter of a mile long. The show later travels to Barcelona and Paris.
Club 57 friend Min Thometz becomes Scharf's studio assistant. Her husband Oliver Sanchez starts designing customized frames for Scharf's paintings. They both continue to work closely with Kenny to this day.
January 6, daughter Zena is born at the Scharf's beach house in Bahia, Brazil.
In March, Scharf embarks on a road trip to Los Angeles in his 1961 Cadillac. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the artist parks the car in Larry Gagosian Gallery for his exhibition and proceeds to create Suprema Ultima Deluxa for the opening.
Paintings by Scharf are included in Arte di Frontiera, Galeria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna and Aperto '84 at the Venice Bienalle in Italy.
In December at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Scharf's exhibition of Suprema Ultima Deluxa, and paintings Juicy Jungle, Sajipe Kraka Joujesh, and Dawn in Paradise, is a huge critical success and elevates the notoriety of Kenny Scharf and his work. Many paintings are purchased by prominent collectors and international museums, including the Ludwig Museum in Germany.
Scarf exhibits at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich.
Scharf customizes a 1973 Cadillac, Dream Car,and creates a black light installation for the "Art in Action," exhibit at the Sogetsu Museum in Tokyo, Japan. The opening celebration includes performances with friends Ann Magnuson and John Sex.
In March, Scharf is included in the Whitney Biennial, the highlight of the 1985 New York art season. The show "the critics love to hate" is the most widely attended Biennial to date. Scharf exhibits a huge black light installation and the painting When Worlds Collide, which is acquired by the Whitney Museum. Other artists include Eric Fischl, Jasper Johns, Mike Kelley, David Salle and Cindy Sherman.
During the complex, time-consuming preparation of the installation, visitors including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat drop by at night to observe Scharf's progress.
In July, Roger Pailhas organizes a major exhibition of contemporary artist at the Centre d'art Contemporain in Marseille. Artists include Scharf, Basquiat, Clemente, Johns, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Haring, Warhol and others.
In August, Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Francesco Clemente each create site-specific works for the Palladium Nightclub. Scharf's customized telephone lounge is reproduced in magazines worldwide. Owner Steve Rubell dubs contemporary artists "the rock stars of today." The opening is covered by major television networks and is reviewed in Newsweek.
In September, Kenny Scharf's Sci-Fi Surrealism is the cover of Art News. Critic Gerald Marzorati reviews painting, the Whitney and Palladium installations and performance work. Scharf's first important, international art magazine cover is controversial as certain constituents of the New York art world are miffed by the artist's endless appetite for fun and perceived pleasure of mindless hedonism.
Scharf has first solo exhibition at Akira Ikeda Gallery in Tokyo followed by a May exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery. His work is included in "American Renaissance: Painting and Sculpture Since 1940," curated by Sam Hunter at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Scharf spends the rest of the year in Bahia, Brazil working.
On February 22nd, while Keith Haring is visiting Brazil, friend and mentor figure Andy Warhol dies. The two artists build a bonfire on the beach as a memorial to Andy.
Upon returning to the United States, Scharf moves his family and studio 90 miles north of New York City to a Victorian mansion overlooking the Hudson River.
Scharf's work displays stylistic change in Tony Shafrazi Gallery's May exhibition. Backgrounds are reminiscent of the mid-century color field and abstract expressionists while the foregrounds embrace abstract surrealism. Scharf exhibits his first glob paintings and sculptures. The exhibition catalogue includes essay by Dan Cameron and portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Scharf is included in "Comic Iconoclasm," an exhibition at the institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Scharf travels to Vienna to paint and customize hanging swing ride for the Luna Luna amusement park. The art amusement park includes rides designed by various artists including Keith Haring Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney.
January 26, daughter Malia is born in a blizzard in upstate New York. Scharf has solo exhibitions at the Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York. Changes biomorphic surrealist style to the super-realist imagery of 1950's advertising on abstract expressionist backgrounds. Two major paintings are acquired by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as well as by Dennis Hopper in Los Angeles.
Scharf moves primary residence and studio to Greenwich Village, NYC. Oliver Sanchez becomes studio assistant.
In May, Scharf and Oliver Sanchez travel to Japan to create three portfolios of prints for AC&T Corporation of Tokyo.
Scharf, shocked by the ravages to the tropical rain-forest in Brazil, devotes his energies to "Don't Bungle The Jungle," a gallery exhibition and performance that raises over $800,000 to preserve the rain forest. For the exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Scharf convinces artists (or their estates) including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Christo, Oldenburg, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Longo to donate works for sale and the sold out performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music includes performances by friends Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, Ann Magnuson, The B-52's and Bob Weir.
Scharf has solo exhibitions of super-realist influenced work at Akira Ikeda Gallery Tokyo, Galerie Hand Mayer, Dusseldorf, and Galerie Beaubourg, Paris.
Having lost his friend Andy Warhol in 1987 and Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1988, Kenny loses friend Keith Haring and Tseng Kwong Chi to AIDS. This is a dark period as numerous close friends pass away in a short time period.
In October, Scharf completes Closet #9, his first black light installation in five years. His show opens at the Queens Museum of Art. Daily busloads of student from the New York public school system attend. Work is included in "American Art of the 80's," curated by Gabriella Belli and Jerry Staltz at Palazzo delle Albere in Trento, Italy.
Scharf begins incorporating silk-screened backgrounds comprising of newspaper text including and not limited to issues of the environment, ecology and AIDS into his paintings.
An exhibition starting at Edward Totah Gallery, London travels to Galleria Seno, Milan and Galleria Roca, Rome.
In July, Scharf moves his family and studio to Miami Beach, Florida.
In September, at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Kenny's exhibition includes actual sections of painted dry wall from his New York studio, symbolizing his recent departure from New York.
Scarf spends the year settling in his new home. He completes Closet #10at the World Gallery in Miami Beach and his work is included in "About Nature," at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary art.
In May, the exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery reflects Scharf's new home. Painted in an abandoned oceanfront building, Tides Hotel, "The Wildlife Series," lush oil paintings juxtapose the verdant wildlife and nature of Florida with images from natural history books. The frames silk-screened images of consumer society reflects on societies intrusion into nature.
Scharf's drawings are included in "A New York Time: Selected Drawings of the Eighties," at the Brice Museum in Greenwich CT, along with Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Donald Baechler, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In April, The Fort Lauderdale Museum mounts "Scharf-O-Rama Vision." Scharf's first retrospective features 23 paintings from 1979 to 1995.
In September, "Scharf Schop, Miami Beach," and "Scharf Schak, New York" open. These two boutiques sell Scharf designed clothing and accessories. The stores are an extension of Scharf's philosophy to share art with the public and make ownership available to all.
In October 1995, Yoshii Gallery, New York exhibits "Early Paintings: 1975-1979," a collection of 12 works from Santa Barbara high school. This exhibition surprises people with its broad range of subject matter.
In December, at Miami's center of Fine Arts, he exhibits Heads,an installation of 10 large paintings that are linked together to create one large wrap-around painting. He also exhibits outdoor fiberglass sculptures. This exhibition is Scharf's largest site-specific installation to date.
In October, "El Mundo De Kenny Scharf," an exhibition curated by Dan Cameron, opens at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey, Mexico. The exhibition consists of 45 paintings from private collections and breaks museum attendance records.
In February, Scharf commissioned to design Cosmic Cavern a black light environment with Faux Fur Walls and space age furniture for the Tunnel nightclub.
In May, "Kenny Scharf: Pop Surrealist," opens at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Scharf has the honor of being the first artist other than Dali to have a solo exhibition at the museum.
In December, at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Scharf exhibits a mature and uniform body of work garnering facets of Scharf's twenty-year exhibition history. "Ultraelectrik," an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and customized electronics opens at the Sony Building on Madison Avenue at Sony Style and Atrium, occupying both the public space and the Madison Avenue windows.
In January, "Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide," a retrospective of 38 paintings and sculptures and a closet, curated by Barry Blinderman, opens at The University Galleries at Illinois State.
In June, the Keith Haring retrospective opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It examines the relationship between Haring, Basquiat and Scharf. At the same time, a gallery show of the three artists is presented at Elysium Arts and Malca Fine Arts in New York.