1980s Art Legend “Car Bombs” Dallas in Advance of a Major MTV Moment: Hanging With Andy Warhol and Giving Back

BY // 04.13.18

Kenny Scharf claims to have been the first of his generation to tag New York City subways — before his running buddies, fellow artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Together, with blessing from benevolent pop godfather Andy Warhol, they conquered the East Village scene, and began the heady decade that would be the 1980s. It is a fact from art history that can be backed up.

Now the L.A.-based painter is headed to Texas — his last time here, he was cast in the blockbuster look at the 1980s, ” Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s,” mounted by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2014.

Incredibly, this weekend marks his debut in Dallas — and what an entrance.

He’s making an appearance at The Goss-Michael Foundation, where his canvas is a car — or should we say kar — for the master of Pop Surrealism continues his ongoing “Karbombz” series. (About once a week, he adorns a car with a graffiti paint job that promulgates his democratic approach to art-making.)

In Dallas, the lucky recipient is Kenny Goss and brother, Tim Goss, whose 2000 GMC Sonoma ended up at the end of Scharf’s aerosol paint-can prowess.

But Scharf is also in Dallas to give back.

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He is one of the live-auction headliners at tonight’s MTV RE:DEFINE, one of the largest art fundraisers in Texas, which also makes an impressive showing for philanthropy on the national art map. Since 2011, more than $10 million has been raised, which funds dual causes — HIV and AIDS prevention and education through the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, as well as benefitting the Dallas Contemporary’s avant-garde mix of programming.

The evening that is the brainchild of hosts Joyce Goss and Kenny Goss, and chaired this year by power women in the arts Maxine Trowbridge and Brooke Davenport, takes place at NorthPark Center. Expect a seven-figure art auction, hammered down by Simon de Pury. Young British Artist and feminist, the outspoken Tracey Emin is the honoree.

Along with the lots by Emin and her YBA pals, bidders can vie for Kenny Scharf’s Globzerino, a tightly coiled composition that swirls with tensile energy. The artist’s signature distorted and disarming faces, rendered in Kool-Aid colors, cavort across the painting, making for a biomorphic work that pops with a frenetic, jubilant energy.

Lot 3, with an estimate between $80,000 and $90,000, Globzerino seems like a steal for a master of art history — and one whose recent showing at MoMA only wrapped days ago.

How did Scharf’s MTV donation come to be?

In a PaperCity exclusive, we called Scharf up at his L.A. studio in Inglewood, before he headed to Dallas, and he told us about the organic process. Before our conversation could begin though, he noted that if there was a pause on his end, it was because he was full-on painting.

“If I ever go silent, it’s not because I’m not going to answer — it’s because I’m finishing painting a line. I have a lot of commissions. I am just spending time in a studio, making that happen,” he said of this need for multi-tasking.

His introduction to the art fundraiser was facilitated by Los Angeles and Paris-based art adviser Mary Aboujaoude, who is assisting on MTV RE:DEFINE — and also set up our interview. In the slide show above this story, see Aboujaoude’s behind-the-scenes pics of Kenny Goss’ visit to Scharf’s studio, the trip where they selected the canvas that would be Lot 3 for tonight’s auction.

For Scharf, the ask to be in MTV RE:DEFINE, “Came out of the blue for me. They were very charming. And I believe in what they are doing. That’s pretty much how it happened.” He says, “Kenny [Goss] reached out. I’d never met him.” It happened quickly, “Maybe a month ago.” His voice crackles with humor, as he warms up to sharing details of his encounter with Goss.

“We hung out, and he’s a great guy. And really fun to meet and talk to. And I gave him a tour, and we sat down and talked abut what he’s doing. And some of it was while I was painting.”

As to why Globzerino  was selected for MTV RE:DEFINE’s auction and its remarkable palette:

“The painting is very bright in color. I am known for using really bright colors… But I also paint in somber colors too, if you want to go back to the ‘70s. There’s a lot of variation and change… But I’m painting with bright colors right now…

I’m all into bright colors — I grew up here, Southern California, in the late ‘50s. And the world was very colorful of my childhood. All that Space Age, and plastic, and everything was new and bright and turquoise and pink.”

Of his plans for Dallas, the Nasher Sculpture Center is on Scharf’s list, as is chilling at the booth of pal, David Totah, exhibitor at the Dallas Art Fair. The artist says, after his big appearance as guest and donor at MTV RE:DEFINE, he will “Go with the flow,” for the rest of the weekend.

He’s amidst a big show in Dubai, but would be very happy to return to Texas. He also has plans for Cannes in the works, tied to the film festival, and upcoming in 2020, a major touring show organized by Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Andy Warhol on the Dance Floor

We had to ask Kenny Scharf about his favorite Warhol memory — “By the time I meant Andy, it was not so much like ‘disco night club,’ but it was a lot going to really nice restaurants, and sitting down talking. Which was something new to me. I was mostly in darker, loud night clubs.”

Scharf continues, “But there was one time with a club called Area, which is still very famous. They had an art exhibition called “Art,” and artists all had different windows. Andy had a window in the show. And there’s disco music.

And Andy [Warhol] is not one known to get on a dance floor and start whooping it up. But I made him dance with me in the middle of the dance floor. A very good memory. He wasn’t really letting loose, but I was. I was laughing and it was fun for me that I got him out on the dance floor.”

Scharf is also happy to look back upon his friendship with Basquiat and Haring.

“I met Basquiat in 1978. When I first moved to New York. He was one of the people I first met. He was not a student at SVA [Scharf attended the School of Visual Arts in New York]… he was hanging out in the school cafeteria. I met Keith Haring the following week. And I introduced Jean-Michel to Keith… I was 19, Jean-Michel was probably 17.”

“Out of the three of us — Jean-Michel and Keith — I’m the only one that painted the subway. I was the only white Jewish boy from L.A. that painted the New York City subway. I have to find the photo of that one.”

Kenny Scharf is represented by Honor Fraser in L.A. and Jeffrey Deitch in New York. He is currently on view in Dubai at Leila Heller Gallery (through August 31).

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