Eric Firestone Gallery Presents:
Amerikulture, Kenny Scharf & Tseng Kwong Chi
July 26 – August 12, 2013
Opening Reception: Friday, July 26th 6:00-9:00pm
East Hampton, NY: Eric Firestone Gallery in collaboration with Paul Kasmin Gallery is pleased to announce Amerikulture, a two-part exhibition illustrating the friendship and interconnected creativity of Kenny Scharf and Tseng Kwong Chi, on view at Eric Firestone Gallery at 4 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, New York, 26 July – 11 August, 2013. The exhibition will present recent paintings by Scharf alongside a selection of photographs by Tseng, curated by Scharf. Through painting and photography spanning 30 years, Amerikuluture presents two artists’ interpretation of Americana and its symbolic vocabulary. Whereas Scharf pairs classic symbols of American consumerism with an underlying subversive edge; Tseng thoughtfully composed and captured playful investigations into the identity of downtown New Yorkers during the 1980’s. Scharf and Tseng’s artistic development became entwined in the 1980’s as their friendship led to collaborations. Notably, Tseng photographed Scharf’s art and performances at the Cosmic Cavern A Go Go, Scharf’s studios in New York and in Brazil. Extending their collaboration to today, for Amerikulture Scharf curated a selection of photographs from Tseng’s studio portraits, party and social pictures of the downtown scene that exist almost in infamy. They are uncanny not simply for the personae that populate them but for their austere visionary manner of presentation- the elaborate, over-the-top antics and wild expression of the day rendered with a kind of austere formalism, as if the maximal energies of this unruly downtown gang could constitute a minimalist authority.
Scharf was born in 1958 in Hollywood, California and rose to prominence alongside his friends and contemporaries in the 1980s, most notably, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Scharf was a pioneer among artists who integrated street culture into the contemporary art mainstream, incorporating pop and comic imagery in his sculptures, installations and paintings. His love of popular culture recalls his life-long fascination with television and his early exposure to the medium as a child. Scharf lived and worked in New York City as a young artist, eager to merge the high and lowbrow, the fantastic and the imaginary. Scharf ultimately established himself as a master of iconic imagery within the field of contemporary art. Scharf’s work is included in numerous public and private collections and has been exhibited internationally at museums and institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Eli Broad Foundation, MOCA Los Angeles and the Stedelijik Museum. Scharf has continued to pioneer unique projects like his Cosmic Cavern- a black light disco installation that was first exhibited at the 1985 Whitney Biennial and inspired his Cosmic Cavern A GoGo disco party, held in the basement of a Brooklyn warehouse since 2008. In 2010, Scharf collaborated with Tony Goldman and The Hole to create an expansive outdoor mural on the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery. He has showcased his unique spray-can paintings on many roll-up storefront shutters throughout Manhattan as part of a public art project by the Mediacy Group’s Gatescapes program. In the spring of 2011, his work was featured in Art in the Streets at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Scharf lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
Tseng Kwong Chi (1950-1990) was born in Hong Kong and immigrated with his family to Vancouver, Canada as a teenager. He studied art in Paris before moving to New York in 1978. Before his untimely death in 1990, Tseng worked in New York as a conceptual artist producing a prolific body of work in photography, most notably the famous series “East Meets West”, a decade-long project of ironic self-portraits guised as a Chinese “Ambiguous Ambassador” in a Mao suit, Tseng took stilted pseudo-tourist shots in front of iconic American and world monuments. Tseng also captured the cultures, contradictions and spirits of artists and celebrities of the 1980’s in portraits which are now nothing less than classic. Tseng’s heroic documentation of Keith Haring’s subway drawings and subsequent global conquest is of immense cultural significances. Tseng’s work is included in numerous public collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Walker Museum of Art in Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Tseng’s photographs were included in Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C and the Brooklyn Museum; Dreamlands at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France; and Keith Haring: The Political Line at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2013. In 2015, The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA will present a major solo survey exhibition.