Two dark-pink, disembodied cartoon heads by Los Angeles-based artist Kenny Scharf bookend the signage on the facade of a tire shop in the Culver City, in L.A. The heads are among a handful of cartoonish characters in retro-futuristic style Scharf has developed over four decades. They can be found on canvases in museums and galleries and more often on the urban landscape as street art and on cars. In the past five years or so we’ve spotted about a dozen vehicles in and around L.A. with Scharf’s iconic characters painted on the cars’ exteriors.
Scharf developed his style in 1980s New York City as part fo the then burgeoning East Village art scene alongside artist such as Basquiat and Keith Haring. Like both these late artists, Scharf experimnted with DIY graffiti art. He shared an apartment with Haring in the ’80s. Whenever we see these Scharf paintings, it reminds us of Downtown Manhattanm specially the Lower East Side, SoHo and the East Village. Though we didn’t live in NYC until a full decade after the East Village movement, we we would sometimes see Scharf’s images spray-painted on a old building around our condo in the L.E.S.
The location of the artwork pictured here on this tire store is not an accident. Culver City is a part of L.A. that has for much of Hollywood’s history has been the home to many film production studios and entertainment companies. In the recent years more and more interactive technology and media companies and small production firm have made the neighborhood home and along with these there’s been an explosion in the number major and small art galleries. Blume and Poe, for example, has a massive art space in Culver. The tire store is across the street from a number of galleries, including Hashimoto Contemporary, smack in the middle of this newer epicenter of L.A.’s art world.