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Kenny Scharf's "Cosmic Cavern" immerses viewers in a day-glo universe at the Portland Art Museum
Kenny Scharf, Cosmic Cavern. Courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery. Photo Joshua White/JWPictures.com.


PORTLAND, ORE.- Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern immerses viewers in a day-glo universe densely packed with graffiti tags, detritus, and everyday objects reimagined as cartoon personalities. This surreal world comes to life under the fluorescent black lighting reminiscent of clubs and discos of the 1980s, a central inspiration for this party environment turned art installation. In 1981 Scharf created the first version in the closet of the small New York apartment he shared with artist Keith Haring. Since then, he has transformed basements, galleries, museums, RVs, and even suitcases into this psychedelic, multi-sensory experience.

Cosmic Cavern exemplifies Scharf’s brand of Pop Surrealism, a blend of graffiti writing, cartoon imagery, dreamy futuristic environments, and bright, saccharine colors. A playful spirit and an offbeat sense of wonder abound in this democratic approach, which Scharf intentionally contrasts to the seriousness often assigned to “high art.” But his work is not without an edge. A critic writing in the early 1980s described fun as Scharf’s anti-catastrophe aesthetic: “a post-apocalyptic aesthetic for the survivors of an end that has already come following the fragmentation of culture caused by today’s material and technological reality.”

Scharf was among the tight circle of artists that included Paige Powell, the photographer and video artist whose multimedia installation Paige Powell: The Ride immerses Museum visitors in that creative climate. Powell and Scharf’s friendship continued after both departed New York in the 1990s. In Portland, Powell played a key role in advocating for the installation of the Tikitotmoniki Totems—the 2001 public art work Scharf designed for Jamison Square in the city’s Pearl District.

Together The Ride and Cosmic Cavern offer museumgoers two distinctive visions of the groundbreaking art scene of 1980s New York. Both demonstrate how highbrow and lowbrow, street art and gallery art, music, fashion, and publishing collided in ways that paved the way for the hybrid forms of artistic expression and creative entrepreneurship we so highly value today.





Today's News

December 1, 2015

Constable's celebrated composition reappears on the market for the first time in 160 years

Exhibition of new drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz on view at Gagosian New York

Mao Zedong letter to Labour Party leader Clement Attlee set for auction at Sotheby's London

Thames & Hudson reissues "The Essential Joseph Beuys" to mark the 30th anniversary of Beuys's death

Major solo exhibition of video and performance artist Alex Bag debuts at ICA Miami

Arthur Miller play "No Villain", written as a 20-year-old student, to premiere in Britain

Japanese manga artist Mizuki, known for his comics of ghosts and monsters, dies at 93

Art Dubai announces galleries participating in its 10th edition taking place March 16-19, 2016

Johnnie Walker heir's Aston Martin DB5 offered at Bonhams' Bond Street Sale

£2.5 million funding for poppies tour announced in government's spending review

Exceptional selection of Israeli & international art to be offered at Sotheby's New York on 17 December

Kenny Scharf's "Cosmic Cavern" immerses viewers in a day-glo universe at the Portland Art Museum

Leadership insight from top museum directors revealed in new book published by the High Museum of Art

Bonhams presents the Elegant Home, an interior designer's top resource for high-end luxury

First woman owned art fair debuts with big names

Noemi Niederhauser's first solo exhibition with Chabah Yelmani Gallery opens in Brussels

New Perspectives: 8 contemporary artists from Ukraine exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute

Exhibition of new work by Emmanuelle Lainé on view at MOT International in Brussels

Brooklyn based artist James Hyde exhibits at David Risley Gallery

Solo exhibition of Sama Alshaibi's work on view at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai

Frist Center's new Kid-Centric website offers engaging at-home activities, lesson plans and more

Chris "Daze" Ellis: The City is My Muse on view at the Museum of the City of New York

Profiles in History announces auction of rare animation & Disneyana

Beloved Russian filmmaker Ryazanov dies

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