Kenny Scharf (b. 1958)
Blob #5
signed, titled and dated 'Kenny Scharf 1994 #5' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
69½ x 53⅜in. (176.5 x 135.7cm.)
Painted in 1994
Cotthem Gallery, Barcelona.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999.
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Lot Essay

‘There’s nothing abstract in my canvases, at most strangely shaped objects. The forms and outlines are softer, more open and organic, but they are still physical objects that come from the unconscious’
- Kenny Scharf

With its vibrant, organic forms intertwined across the picture plane, the present work is a large-scale example of Kenny Scharf’s signature ‘blob’ paintings. Recurring throughout his practice, these works demonstrate his fluid, metamorphic painterly language, nourished by influences drawn from cartoons, graffiti, Pop Art and Surrealism. Born in California, Scharf graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, coming to prominence within the thriving East Village art scene. Alongside his contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, his work had a pivotal impact on the development of urban visual culture during this period, spanning painting, sculpture, clothing design, performance art, video and murals. The ‘blobs’ – sometimes arranged in abstract cellular formations, sometimes bearing whimsical facial expressions – remain his most recognisable creations, alive with the psychedelic euphoria of post-Punk New York.

Scharf coined the term ‘Pop-Surrealism’ in relation to his work, reflecting his dual fascination with both popular imagery – The Flintstones and The Jetsons were important sources of inspiration – as well as the Surrealists’ exploration of the unconscious. He placed great emphasis on the importance of chance and spontaneity in his work, insisting on the power of the artist’s touch and refusing to involve assistants in the production of his paintings. ‘There’s a million definitions of being an artist but I really like to see the artist’s hand’, he explains. ‘Not only in what I do, but when I look at other artists’ work, I really respond to the emotion and the energy that comes from the line or the mark the individual makes ... I believe in the power and the passion of the actual touch’ (K. Scharf, quoted in E. Colucci, ‘You Can’t Plan Fun: An Interview with Kenny Scharf’, Art21 Magazine,27 June 2012, [accessed 8 August 2018]).
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