Artist Kenny Scharf is, as Ron Burgundy might say, kind of a big deal. Actually he really is a big deal. His artwork has appeared in the streets and on the walls of galleries and museums worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly four decades.
Scharf has got an iconic body of work, mostly paintings of often contorted retro-futuristic comic heads and faces in a style like those of 1960’s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoons “The Jetsons” and “The Flinstones.”
Now his artwork is also appearing on a late model Honda Fit in the greater LA metro area. LA being LA, that Honda is most likely crawling at 10 miles-per-hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a SoCal freeway right now.
Artwork on cars has always left a funny taste in our mouth. When we say “artwork,” we’re not talking about the kind of decorative flourishes of paint and decals that adorn classic cars, low riders, racing cars or hot rods. That shit is legit. It’s for the car. It’s part of the car as an expression of the car’s owner in service of the vehicle’s style. It’s decorative and artful and a craft that is a byproduct of car culture itself.
No, what we’re talking about here is when an artist that has nothing to do with cars puts their artwork on a moving vehicle, merely using the car as a canvas on wheels. Sometimes it works amazingly well and can stop us in our tracks and put a smile on our face. And sometimes it doesn’t and we’re recoiling from the sight.
In other words, it can be really lame. In fact it can be the lamest of lame sauce. (That’s pretty fucking lame!) Or it can be the coolest thing E-V-E-R.
Kenny’s artwork has never resonated with us in a big way in terms of aesthetic, but we like his work and we’ve always enjoyed and appreciated his art and style. His site-specific painting on a massive set of walls in the lobby of the Hammer Museum was AWESOME.
But seeing one of his iconic painted cartoon faces blazing on the side of a compact sedan parked on a Santa Monica side street just kind of made us die a little bit inside. It felt cheap. It felt too easy. It looked lame.
Maybe it was simply a matter of aesthetic: That hue of red for the face on that electric-midnight blue of that car just doesn’t feel right.
That said, street art evovled on the foundation of graffiti art, which started the tradition of “getting up” large, visually stunning graffiti on trains and commercial trucks — perfect canvases for exposing one’s work to a large citywide audience in New York back in the day. At the time, many recoiled at the sight. It was considered an eyesore. Now, we look at it differently.
Yet, for Scharf, we expect the art to be more hallowed and to look better. That might be wrong, but it’s just us. So, Kenny, dude, step away from the vehicles, bro! Step away from the vehicles.
Of course, if that Honda Fit is Kenny’s, then everything we just said above doesn’t matter. What you do to your car is your business. And more power to ya’!
Hey, look! The Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles has some new artwork! The museum, more often referred to by locals simply as “The Hammer” (and, by the way, how fucking cool of a name for a museum is that?) recently acquired some new art. It’s mostly of the contemporary variety, which regular readers of Global Graphica will know, we L-O-V-E the most.
As an art museum is wont to do, the Hammer has put on an exhibition of these newly acquired works in a show titled “Living Apart Together.” Among the standout pieces in the show (and there are many) is Los Angeles artist Barbara T. Smith’s “Field Piece,” a small forrest of 16 tall, narrow resin trunks (described by the museum as fiberglass “blades”) that are not too dissimilar to — dare we say it — male genitilia. A.k.a., dicks! In other words, some people might call these “phallic.”
But, we dear reader, are not one of such people. We don’t think these are phallic at all, and we do believe that it was not in the mind of the artist to create something as such at the time (that time being between 1968-1972, when Smith created “Field Piece”).
But no matter. Because “Field Piece” is thought-provoking, as all rewarding encounters with art should be. It’s that … Aaaaaaaaand it’s also something that would look fantastic in our living room!
The crowd of people snapping pix on the sidewalk along fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, in Los Angeles, seem for a moment like the scrum of paparazzi feasting on the presence of a mid-level Kardashian exiting the Chateau Marmont Hotel on a tipsy Friday night. But this is not the case.
All these folks, with their iPhones held aloft, dangerously stepping backward a few paces into the street and the path of oncoming vehicles, holding up sidewalk foot traffic, are taking pix of a piece of hyper-Instagramable street art by the artist Kelsey Montague. The artwork is beautiful and worth the pic, for sure.
Part of its appeal though is less aesthetic and more for the pure visual gimmick. For many, the allure is to be photographed standing in front of the artwork, positioned carefully between the two “wings.” So it looks like they have wings! Get it? Aaaaahh! So cuuuuuuuuuuuute!
The flow of moneyed (and/or credit-card debt laden) hipsters and tourists navigating the narrow pavement on this stretch of Abbot Kinney slows to a crawl as people pause to take photos or try to not accidentally photo-bomb somebody’s pic by walking into frame. There’s a bit of polite if determined jostling that goes on. It amounts to a kind of ephemeral, accidental choreography that, coupled with all the casual apologies, can be more mesmerizing to view than the artwork itself.
Meanwhile, cars slow down on the already tortoise-paced boulevard. Somebody driving by in a douchey banana-yellow Porsche 911 convertible audibly laments about “Fucking Millennials!” and a 30-something couple pushing a double-wide Bugaboo baby stroller, frustrated but sheepish, try their best to thread their way through the masses on the sidewalk.
The mural is in keeping with a series of “What Lifts You” (#whatliftsyou, of course) paintings of butterfly-like wings Montague has been creating for years on walls all over the world. It’s become the thing she’s known for.
These detailed paintings are comprised largely of imagery drawn from the natural world, an assortment of flowers and leaves fashioned into the shape of wings. On the streetscape, it adds a wonderful touch of beauty and whimsy, turning yet another small patch of the world into an Instagram set piece.
(By the way, if you’re wondering how there’s nobody in the photo above, we took our pic on a slow Monday evening in the hot nano-sec between passersby. Luck. #blessed AF!)
We love Apartamento magazine. And so should you. The new issue of this mag devoted to “everyday interiors” and design/designers just arrived at our local purveyor of printed matter and it looks gooooooooood!