Kenny Scharf Goes to Town in Rockaway Beach

Mural by Kenny Scharf.  Made possible by Topshop, curated by Beatrice Johnson for Clocktower Productions, and presented at Playland Motel.

All summer long, Topshop is celebrating the beach and sun with a Summer Music Series held in the Rockaways. The retailer enlisted the help of artist Kenny Scharf to set the tone — watch him in action (above) spray painting a beach mural featuring some of his favorite characters.

Drop by any Sunday through August 31 to see the mural for yourself, and catch DJ sets by artists like Danny Krivit this Sunday, MOTHER (with Penn Badgley) on the 17th, and more. All of the Topshop x Playland Summer Sundays are open to the public from 4 p.m. until late.

Why DJ Michael T. Takes No Requests

After a couple of decades in the club biz, labels make way for legendary status. I am often described as “a legend” when someone is introducing me to someone. I always find it to be embarrassing and I always check my pulse to see if I’m still kicking. For some reason I find it a bit insulting. It discounts my "now" and concentrates or wallows in my past. Michael T. is still kicking it, so much so that this Sunday, he’s launching his second New Romantic Ball at Le Poisson Rouge. He is one of my favorite DJs. Just don’t ask him to play your favorite track.

For those who just stepped off the boat, tell us who you are… and do get into “Motherfucker” and that old shit.
I’m Michael T., performer/DJ and producer of "rock n roll" events/parties for over 20 years. My parties attract both gay and straight. The ones that are truly mixed are always the best parties. I’ve been going to clubs regularly since 1985. I started working in them on and off from ‘86 on. I’ve worked in clubs consistently since 1989.

The first party I ever "produced" was called "New York Nights." It was held at The Pyramid Club on Avenue A…when it was still dangerous.
It was on a Monday and it ran for two years. [‘91-‘93] It was an "alternative" party, both musically and people-wise.

After that, I had a band called Killer Lipstick [‘93-‘95]. Before/during and after this period I did what a lot of people do in clubs to secure a gig and survive, be it door/guest list, go-go dancer, performer etc. Eventually, this lead to DJing, which seemed to be one of the more "stable" of jobs as far as clubland goes.

Anyway, my first "real" DJ gig was at the now-shuttered The Tunnel at a party called "Kurfew" in the Kenny Scharf room aka “the fuzzy room.”
This was 1998-99. At this time, I also had a monthly party “Heroes” at a club called Mother called "Heroes.” I was also the emcee and DJ at the now-closed S&M restaurant "La Maison De Sade.”

Halloween Night, 1998: While DJing at “Kurfew,”-I took ecstasy for the first time. It was a mind-blowing experience.
The second time I took it: Jan 18th on my birthday [again, I was DJing] I had an "epiphany" of sorts. I thought how amazing it would be if I somehow managed to get the right group of creative people together in order to create the ultimate, outrageous "Rock N Roll Fantasy" party. Thus, the seed to "Motherfucker" was planted that evening.

Fast forward a year and a half later and Motherfucker was born at Mother. Chi Chi Valenti gave us the name, who in turn was given the name
by Clark Render. Apparently, Clark would often ask her why they [Johnny and Chi Chi] never did a party called "Motherfucker" at Mother.
Needless to say, we all thought it was a great name.

At any rate, Motherfucker grew and grew and grew and it became the biggest roving rock n roll party in NYC. We sold out the Roxy, Limelight, Spirit, Eugene, Rebel [with three to four rooms] for the next seven years.

Two moments that I will cherish forever was when I booked Willie Ninja & The House of Ninja and The Cramps [not on the same bill].
The other "infamous" party I did was "Rated X/The Panty Party" with Theo Kogan, singer of The Lunachicks.” It ran for six years, and every week we had naked people on stage competing in our 3am "Hot Body Contest" to win a whopping $100.

This is your second New Romantic Ball. In fact, it is called Romantic Ball II. What’s the difference between a ball and a party? What can people expect at the Ball and what is expected from them besides just showing up with a $20 bill?
Well, they’ll walk into a real club with proper lights, sound, a great dance floor, and CLEAN bathrooms!!
They’ll also see four bands, two burlesque shows, and hear three DJs, and hangout with a bunch of colorful hosts.

What’s the difference between a ball and a party? A ball usually pertains to an event that is held once or twice a year; they’re special events and, therefore, you make that distinction. Besides, everyone these days throws a “party.”

That stated, the main attractions of the night are the tribute shows we put on.They’re done with a full, six to seven-piece band. That’s just my band.
My partner, Ben Ickies, has a 20-piece orchestra. Where can one go today and see a rock show with a 20-piece orchestra?!?

All of our shows are rehearsed. Plus, we always have guest singers. However, let me state that we have REAL performers on stage. This is NOT a glorified "scaryoke" night. The artist[s] or genre we pay homage to is done with the utmost respect. We really love that artist or time period in music that’s being reinterpreted for the evening. We don’t do these shows to be "ironic.”

If you’re wondering what bands fall under "new romantic,” they’re all bands from the U.K. that flourished in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, roughly ‘79-‘82. Just about all these bands were heavily inspired by Bowie or Roxy Music.
ie;Duran Duran, ABC, Visage, Gary Numan, Adam Ant, etc.

In short, you get to see a great show for your $20.

Le Poisson Rouge is a very artsy, creative friendly environment. Talk about the joint.
Well, it’s one of the last "legit" clubs in NYC. It has an incredible stage, excellent sound/lights a greenroom, a big DANCE FLOOR! Plus, it has a very professional and courteous staff.

It’s such a delight throwing parties or balls there. It’s a venue that really helps you achieve your artistic vision and isn’t just concerned with the bottom-line – what a rarity in this day and age. In all my years working in various clubs, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more pro-active staff…from busboy all the way to the GM.

You and I have DJd over the centuries. You are adamant about not taking requests. Explain that and your take on your job as a DJ.
I don’t take requests for the most part because either A) people have shitty taste in music; B) They’re rude; and also C) I’m not a juke-box.

The main reason, however, is very simple: I know what I’m doing. I’ve been DJing since 1998. Whatever venue I’m working at has hired me for that reason. I just find it outrageous that people feel it’s their "right" to make requests and get "offended" if you don’t comply.

Here are just a few lovely examples of the crap you hear from people: "I like what you’re playing…but.” Or, if I was DJing, I’d play this next" etc.
Can you imagine, if I walked into an office and told someone I’ve never met that they should do their job "like so"!?!! I’m sorry, I simply don’t stand for any of that nonsense. If you don’t like what I play, fine, go somewhere else. You won’t be missed. Believe me.

What is your overview of nightlife in the terrible 2010s?
It’s tragic. I don’t really need to say much…you pretty much answered your own question. The state of nightlife is at an all-time low.


I disagree with Michael and find fun everywhere…but then again, I take requests. Something on my hmmmm list is Yiddish Cabaret going on at The Box tonight at 10pm. It’s somehow a gig anticipating the opening of Soho’s new kosher restaurant Jezebel. You can buy tickets here. I have been told to look out for a Ms. Jonas’ rendition of "If I Were a Rich Man." Oy vey, I’m leaving Brooklyn…for this?

Keith Haring’s Humanity Heads to Paris

Keith Haring’s art is like a visual punch in the face. A true trailblazer during New York City’s street culture movement in the 1980s, the inimitable graffiti virtuoso’s playfully subversive imagery slapped society with a unique call-to-action that cleverly commanded open and direct discussions about sex, racism, war, power and violence. Following his untimely death in 1990 at the age of 31, the artist’s signature silhouettes, iconic bold lines, and legendary phrases live on through thoughtful brand collaborations managed by the Keith Haring Foundation, as well as exclusive exhibitions at major museums across the globe.  

A social activist at heart, Haring’s powerful political messages are as impactful today as they were at the height of his career. To celebrate his legacy, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris) and Le CENTQUATRE present one of the artist’s largest retrospectives to date. The Political Line runs from April 19 through August 18and boasts nearly 250 striking images on canvas, subway walls and tarpaulins, including such works as A Pile of Crowns, For Jean-Michel Basquiat (1988), Brazil (1989), and Andy Mouse – New Coke (1985), a tribute to Haring’s close friend and mentor, Andy Warhol. The CENTQUATRE art space will showcase 20 large-format works, most notably The Ten Commandments (1985), which is a mighty set of 25-foot panels that cleverly merge Biblical references with socio-political iconography. In short, it’s bucket list-worthy for Haring diehards.

keith haring brazil

Brazil, 1989, Glenstone, © Keith Haring Foundation

Dedicated to supporting art initiatives around the world (projects include Miss Van’s exhibition in Los Angeles, Fuzi UV TPK’s tattoo residency at New York’s The Hole Shop, and Barry McGee’s retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum in California), premium denim and lifestyle brand Citizens of Humanity (COH) is sponsoring the exhibition and will also host a special children’s program to salute the partnership. "I am inspired by people that follow their own ideas and create what no one has before them," explains COH founder, Paris-born Jerome Dahan. "As a child, I didn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to ‘art’ as it was defined inside a museum or gallery. Contemporary art, which feels far more accessible, was one I connected with. When I came to the states, I found the look and voice of artists at the time particularly interesting and inspiring, as they were rewriting the rules and, for the first time, were so much a part of popular culture. Haring defines a true artist to me; he had a strong vision, incredible courage, and spoke from the heart." Dahan has paintings from both Haring and Basquiat in his home collection.

"As a team, we wanted to support an exhibition that showcases the work of a man who truly was a Citizen of Humanity and who helped draw attention to social issues that are important to all of us," explains COH president, Amy Williams. "To do so in Jerome’s birthplace, during the 10-year anniversary of our brand, makes it even more important." In addition to the artist’s undeniable draw, Paris, contemporary art and charity are three elements that attracted COH to sponsoring the exhibition. Over the last year, the brand has been working to develop and share their story while expanding presence in France, a place that is very much a part of their DNA.

Haring’s connection to France includes a 1985 exhibition at the CAPC Musee d’Art Contemporain (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Bordeaux and a vibrant 1987 mural on the exterior of Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris. Although his international presence is certainly revered, the artist was a New Yorker through and through. Born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1987 Haring dropped out of the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh after two semesters when he realized that he wasn’t interested in becoming a commercial graphic artist. Later that year, he moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA), where his love affair with street art first sparked. Swiftly making a name for himself through rapid, mind-blowing public paintings in subways (this was around the time his infamous "Radiant Baby" figure was born), by the 1980s he was making waves with fellow 20th century game-changers like the aforementioned Basquiat and Warhol, and collaborating with a host of acclaimed audio angels. Memorable designs include a leather jacket donned by Madonna in 1984 during her performance of "Like a Virgin" for the TV dance show, Solid Gold, and brilliantly eccentric outfits sported by the one and only Grace Jones in her 1986 music video for "I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)." (There’s also body painting involved and cameos by Haring and Warhol. That video will change your life.)

Living friends of the artist continue to sing his praises. Queen of New York’s underground scene in the ’80s and FUN Gallery co-founder (her memoir, FUN Gallery…The True Story, is a must-read) Patti Astor recalls her first encounter with the artist: "I met Keith on Astor Place in 1980. He was wearing his distinctive Day-Glo painted googly eyeglasses and asked to take my picture. What a lucky day for me! We were privileged to show Keith and [famed Lower East Side graffiti artist Angel Ortiz] LA2 at the FUN Gallery in February of 1983. If there is one artist who epitomizes the breakthrough spirit of the early ’80s—a moment when your ‘art’ and your impact on the culture were inseparable—it is Keith. I think of him every day."

Hollywood-born, Brooklyn-based art legend Kenny Scharf was friends and roommates with Haring and appears in the 2008 documentary, The Universe of Keith Haring. He shares Astor’s sentiment: "Although Keith and I were the same age, I always felt that he was my guide and teacher. I learned so much from him and still use his advice today. Thank you, Keith, forever."

The Political Line runs from April 19 through August 18, 2013 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France.

Artist Kenny Scharf Squirts Kiehl’s for the Holidays

Anddd the gift guides begin. If you’ve got someone on your list that’s the rare combination of both beauty buff and art fanatic, listen up. Following in the footsteps of super successful collaborations with both KAWS and Jeff Koons, Kiehl’s has teamed up with another legendary artist for its 4th annual limited-edition Creme de Corps holiday collection. Brooklyn-based talent Kenny Scharf has created a special package design for the popular cosmetics brand that is as kooky-cool as one would expect.

Scharf’s colorful "Globo Mundo" design is graced on Kiehl’s moisturizer ($29.50-$75) and body butter ($38), as well as a limited "Squirt" collectible sculpture ($50) designed by the artist. Each Squirt is individually numbered and only 2,000 of them were made, adding further to the exclusivity factor and your standing as best gifter of the year. 
The purchase is good karma, too: 100% of net profits support RxArt, a non-profit organization that fosters artistic expression by sharing contemporary art with patients in otherwise sterile healthcare facilities. Shop the collection here.

Art & Celebrity: Featuring Will Cotton, Francesco Vezzoli, & Richard Phillips

The version of California in pop singer Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” music video looks a lot like the board game Candy Land. As in the Milton Bradley original, Perry navigates a sugary path strewn with obstacles: a bridge made from a single Twizzler (she prudently removes her stilettos to cross it), candy canes that metamorphose into snakes, an army of gummy bears that take orders from Snoop Dogg. Eventually, Perry arrives at a capital city of sorts—Los Angeles, if it were constructed from upturned Mister Softee cones—and vanquishes Snoop and his treacly thugs using a bra that shoots whipped cream, like a flamethrower, from her aerosol-hardened nipples. “California girls,” she sings, “So hot we’ll melt your Popsicle.”

“Candyfornia” was created by Will Cotton, a painter whose studio sits on a block of New York’s Chinatown lined with wholesale kitchen supply stores, and who proposed collaborating with Perry after she emailed him about purchasing a painting. A slight man in his 40s with sandy blond hair, Cotton has made a career of translating confection into art. After the early 1990s, when he focused most of his energies on paintings of advertising icons like the Nestlé Quik Bunny, Twinkie the Kid, and the Pillsbury Doughboy, Cotton switched to landscapes rendered in profusions of pastel sweets. Odalisque nudes were introduced as subjects. The paintings’ nexus of desire—melting Breyers or the models’ own creamy skin—is sweetly muddled.

For “California Gurls,” Cotton constructed, using real candy, a small-scale version of the board game Perry would wander through on greenscreen. He also painted a large portrait of Perry lying on a cloud of pink cotton candy, a pouf of air-spun sugar covering her exposed derrière. Perry decided to use the image as the cover art for her second studio album, Teenage Dream. “She’s just someone who fits stylistically into this world,” Cotton says of his sugarscapes when I visit his studio one evening in January. “I started playing this game, asking myself who would be here if there were people in this place. Katy Perry would be here, that’s who.” Like One of the Boys, Perry’s debut full-length album, Teenage Dream went platinum, and in the process introduced Cotton to an entirely new audience.

With her Hollywood-approved curves, Perry does fit easily into Cotton’s body of work, even if she is the first household name with whom he’s partnered. “It’s a kind of iconography,” he says. “Even if we don’t use the term ‘Venus,’ to me it’s as archetypal an image as that.” But if Perry is a latter-day Fragonard goddess, she’s also, with nearly five-and-a-half million followers on Twitter, a celebrity version of the Trix cereal bunny—as much brand as bombshell. “Literally,” says Cotton, adjusting himself in his chair so that one leg is tucked under him, “She spent an entire hour applying fake eyelashes!” image Untitled a drawing of Katy Perry by Will Cotton, 2010, oil on paper, 22 x 24” Courtesy of the artist and Mary Boone Gallery

Will Cotton is hardly the only contemporary fine artist interested in working with celebrities—or the idea of celebrity. George Condo recently collaborated with rapper Kanye West to produce five paintings for the latter’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album cover. (While clearly an expression of Condo’s virtuoso grotesquerie, the art, we know from a January New Yorker profile of Condo, was also explicitly designed to be banned.) Lisa Yuskavage’s eerie-erotic nudes are a favorite of Bette Porter, a character played by Jennifer Beals on Showtime’s The L Word; Kehinde Wiley pictured Biggie Smalls and Michael Jackson in naturalistic, Old Master oils; Elizabeth Peyton contrived a career out of her jewel-like portraits of famous musician friends. “I’ve noticed an interest in developing a genuine dialogue with those things that are supposed to be considered off-limits,” says Cotton of consumer-celebrity mass culture. “There’s been a sentiment for a long time that since we are fine artists, we have to not dirty ourselves by dipping into that world in any way. I’m really interested in that.”

Andy Warhol would seem to be the inevitable point of comparison for anyone interested in making art about celebrities, but rather than align themselves in a genealogy sprouting from the paterfamilias of pop, artists like Cotton—with his allusions to goddess worship and 18th-century European portraiture—are reaching back through the annals of art history to pose the question: How has the idea of celebrity changed since the days of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley (since Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley), if it’s changed at all?

“The idea was to create a pagan church,” says 40-year-old multimedia artist Francesco Vezzoli over the phone earlier this year. It’s nearing midnight in Milan, the northern Italian city where the artist, who was born in nearby Brescia, currently lives and works. Despite the hour, Vezzoli, who’s been referred to variously in publications as a “rapscallion,” a “provocateur,” and a “whore,” betrays no signs of sleepiness in his voice. In just a few weeks, his first New York solo show, “Sacrilegio,” will open at the Gagosian Gallery’s West 21st Street location. Vezzoli plans to transform the eminent art space into a Renaissance chapel and install large-scale reinterpretations of 15th and 16th-century Madonna-and-Child paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, and Sandro Botticelli. (That Larry Gagosian is modern-day New York’s answer to Lorenzo de’ Medici is surely not lost on Vezzoli.) Where the original works feature the beatific Virgin, however, Vezzoli’s laser prints have swapped out Mary for Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour, and Claudia Schiffer. Large, lozenge-shaped tears rendered in Vezzoli’s signature needlework fall from the supermodels’ eyes.

“I’ve been celebrity obsessed for so long that I’m now bored of it,” says Vezzoli. “But it’s still a comfort zone for me. I’d like to be the professor of the topic, the Olafur Eliasson of sequins.” To date, Vezzoli has created (among other works): a trailer for a non-existent remake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula starring Helen Mirren, Courtney Love, and himself; a one-night-only restaging of Pirandello’s Right You Are (If You Think You Are) starring Cate Blanchett; and, most famously, an ad campaign for a fictitious perfume called Greed directed by Roman Polanski and starring Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. “It’s fascinating to see the world getting fascinated with the embodiment of their dreams or their fantasies. I’m not a fan. I’m not a desperate Lady Gaga person,” says Vezzoli, who has collaborated with Mother Monster in the past. “I’m obsessed with the obsession that people have for her.” image Silvana Mangano as Mary Magdalene by Francesco Vezzoli, 1999-2009, laserprint on canvas, metal needles, 15 1/2 x 11 1/2” Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery Photo by Robert McKeever

Vezzoli has a sense of humor, but he deploys it as a bait-and-switch tactic meant to draw attention to the void at the center of his works, the absence of the products—the movie, the perfume—themselves. Greed won’t ever be available for purchase at Neiman Marcus beauty counters (it’s for us to wonder what bouquet a Portman/Williams catfight produces), and in this way, Vezzoli perverts the timeworn relationship between celebrities and brands by making it reflexive: the stars of his works are only endorsing themselves. His artworks traffic in “unfulfilled dreams,” unattainable not because consumers won’t get to spritz themselves with Greed, but because celebrity—as the title of his Gagosian show suggests—is entirely a function of worship. Celebrities don’t exist, only people (real people) and the concept of celebrity. “These websites,” Vezzoli says, referring to online gossip rags, “they are flourishing like mushrooms! Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me there’s still a universe to dream and fantasize. The Greeks did that with their gods, and we will do the same.”

If the pop art of Warhol’s day sought to make an anti-elitist gesture by absorbing mass culture and replicating its modes of production, its vertiginous sameness, Vezzoli and Cotton are making a simultaneous, opposite gesture, deifying their subjects just as they’re calling out celebrities’ status—intentionally or not—as products of mass media. Pop stars aren’t cans of Campbell’s soup to be endlessly plucked from a silkscreen stencil: they’re Venuses and Madonnas, secular gods brought to life through the flicks of an oil brush or painstaking needlework.

“Most pop art was conceived as a reflection of what was going on in culture, the celebrities that were out there. It was a passive and reflexive mode,” says Richard Phillips, a 48-year-old artist whose studio occupies one light-filled rectangle of an immense, Fritz Lang-like complex on Manhattan’s west side. “These paintings,” he says, sweeping an arm around the room, “are not focused on idolatry or fandom. They’re deliberate, powerful images meant to communicate a projection.” Phillips is gesturing at a group of 10 portraits—renderings of Dakota Fanning, Justin Timberlake, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Swift, Zac Efron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chace Crawford, and Taylor Momsen—which he created for “Most Wanted,” a show that opened in late January at White Cube on London’s Hoxton Square. (A certain demographic will recognize Phillips’ art from Lily van der Woodsen’s personal collection on CW’s Gossip Girl.) With five outsize faces on each of two opposing walls, the effect—a pantheon of pop icons, nearly all of them under 30—is not unlike the uncanny shiver of recognition one experiences at Madame Tussauds. But where wax figures aspire to facsimile, Justin Timberlake’s goatee looks like it’s made from Play-Doh spaghetti. Phillips insists this is the point.

Based on a series of 13 portraits Andy Warhol screened for the 1962 World’s Fair, the luminescent faces of “Most Wanted” are matched to the top-10 grossing luxury brands. The background of Taylor Momsen’s portrait is comprised of Chanel’s crossed C’s; Robert Pattinson plugs Louis Vuitton. “In a way, the relationship between them all is an impossibility, because you could never get this group to be in a magazine layout together,” says Phillips. The stars’ silhouettes are outlined by electrified nimbuses, a reference to late-’70s Interview magazine, during Warhol’s reign as editor, but also to “secular deification,” says Phillips. “They are the young gods of today.” Far from encouraging fanboy adulation, however, Phillips hopes to interrogate that moment of spontaneous red-carpet recognition—to question the probity of Timberlake’s facial hair.

Just as Cotton and Vezzoli pepper their work with art-historical references, Phillips invokes Hans Holbein, a Northern Renaissance painter, to explain the tension he hopes to create with “Most Wanted.” Holbein’s studies of Europe’s 16th-century elites tended to exhibit his patrons’ names in gilded lettering—not unlike Phillips’ brand logos—and he managed to suffuse the faces of his subjects, via a method of tonal compression that’s still used today, with a fleshy realism so warm and back-lit as to be genuinely unnerving. Phillips used the same technique to achieve the adolescent glow of Swift’s cheek, and then added points of divergence. “Painterly codes and methods are very much alive in these paintings,” he says. “Taylor Swift’s lips are stuck on, but the flesh tone seems so believable.”

Phillips is trying to reconfigure the autopilot relationship we have with celebrity. Painting, a medium which is expressly “not media,” forces a reconsideration of one’s actual, physically determined association with fame. “Being in the presence of a large portrait can kind of resolve that,” he says. “This body of work resists the rush of media and allows for contemplation of what our relationships are to this phenomenon, this capacity for us to fall all over ourselves, to worship these individuals.” They also make us consider our complicity in the semi-frozen, semi-lifelike 20-somethings’ fame—the extent to which they are projections of our own collective desires—as well as the complicity of the art world. “They do speak about the art market and the relationships between art institutions,” says Phillips, “their need for celebrities to bolster their waning interest from the public.”

Advertising and cartoon imagery, like the Jetsons and the Flintstones—two families of historical extremes—invaded the mind of artist Kenny Scharf from an early age. Scharf, along with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, was an important figure in the 1980s East Village scene, and during that decade he painted several rubbery, surrealistic album covers for the B-52s. “I was a groupie and I still am a groupie,” he tells me when I call him at his studio in Los Angeles.

When asked what’s changed about the art world since the days of Haring’s Pop Shop, a gallery gift shop of sorts that shuttered in 2005, Scharf says that there are no longer easily discernible, monolithic trends replacing each other in wave-like succession. “There’s too much information for there to be one way of looking at things,” he says.

Back in the ’80s, Scharf became interested in working with a big-name, lowbrow corporation, Kmart or Wal-Mart. He was excited by the idea of distributing his artworks on a larger scale, of designing objects—plastic toys, for example—that would sell in America’s temples of consumption. The trick would be to get funding, but no one, it seemed, was game. “I think I was just a little too ahead of my time,” he says judiciously. The art world hadn’t yet caught up to consumer culture, trundling through decades in a sequence of relatively cut-and-dry movements. “In the ’80s, when I wanted to do all this stuff, I felt that Warhol had legitimized this kind of idea where art could be commercial and noncommercial, and we thought, that was 20 years ago, so now we can do it. But there was a stigma still very much attached to artists being in a ‘commercial world’ back then. It was like, ‘You’re selling out.’ No, we were reaching out. A lot of the art world didn’t get it.”

What has changed since Warhol? Not the nature of celebrity. Cotton, Vezzoli, and Phillips demonstrate that idol worship hasn’t undergone any serious modifications since people first started projecting their best and worst qualities outside themselves thousands of years ago. What’s changed is the art world and the artists, who’ve eviscerated the ironic distance between themselves and pop culture—our secular/saintly vessel—opting instead to participate actively in its production. “I see now—40 years after Warhol, and 20 years after Pop Shop—now it’s okay,” Scharf says. “Finally, people understand that it’s part of the dialogue. It’s part of what art is.”

Top: Red, Blonde and Blue a portrait of Lindsay Lohan by Richard Phillips, 2010, oil on linen, 77 3/4 x 60 3/4”

Correct Culture: Fearsome Hats Pose, Kenny Scharf Glows

Shop Till You Drop – Patricia Field has been ground zero for forward fashion seemingly forever, but her new featured hat collection by Trivia’l raises the bar. Designed by Neon Music, the hats are fiercely futuristic, severely surreal, and at times tastelessly tongue in chic. Upside-down black crucifixes are given a couture edge, while the skull is reinvigorated by a fresh sprinkling of black plumes. There’s a showgirl on acid feeling throughout, but the novelty is tempered by a polished perfection and carefully crafted finish. Beyonce is a fan and picked up a not so subtle style to wear on her current tour. These creations are for the un-faint of heart who like to make a major entrance worthy of the most dedicated diva.


The Stuff You Need Right Now – Two things a correct modern girl simply can’t wouldn’t and should never go without: fabulous ink and even more gorgeous lip gloss. She already has the tats, but singer/actress Theo Kogan wanted to fulfill one of her biggest dreams — to be a beauty mogul. Her line of luscious lip glosses, Armour Beauty, features shades like Gazarri’s (inspired by an 80s hair meta club in Los Angeles) and Cat Club and are impossibly glossy and super ultra bright. Theo can currently be found performing with her band Theo & The Skyscrapers and starring in short films like Rob Roth’s beyond brilliant “Screen Test.” Theo, as usual, continues to inspire on so many fronts, and her first foray into the world of beauty is literally flawless.

Blog or Die – Most gay blogs are either complete porn or completely boring. Not so Beachcruiser BlackBook (no relation), a rare mix of subversive gay pop culture, random horny dudes, and up- to-the minute homo-centricities. This blog provides a correct preview of its soon-to-be-published companion zine, Beachcruiser, which oddly enough is based in Asbury Park, NJ, proving that you don’t have to be in Chelsea to be at the center of the gay universe.


Tag You’re It – The three completely random examples of street art pictured here were all found within a two-block stretch of Williamsburg, proving that when it visually rains, it fucking pours. I love the simplicity of the Preston tag with its cursive font lazily scrawled across a makeshift skateboard.


The Japanimae bug-eyed character of the second one keeps it tight and correct …


… while the makeshift cut, color, and collage style of the last is (literally) off the pages of Juxtapozed, proving that some of the best art in trendy magazines is better seen smack dab in the street and not some pretentious gallery.


Party Like It’s 1985 – Kenny Scharf had the craziest blacklight party in the basement of his Willburg studio this week and not only treated each guest to an original neon face painting, but rocked a correct undies-over-gun print tights look that had the kids gagging. Scott Ewalt spun a monster mash of boogie-down classics while $1 Buds kept the crowd from getting thirsty. By 1am it was a steam den of fluorescent freaks, frugging the fierce away and oblivious to the sudden streaks of their melting make-up. The magic brownie hit just as Stephen Saban, Michael Schmidt, and Lisa Edelstein all magically appeared as if we were back in 1985 and the Palladium’s Mike Todd Room had suddenly come back to life. Trip me the Fu*k out. BTW: Check out his new book, Kenny Scharf, out now from Rizzoli and featuring an awesome array of his favorite work from the past 25 years.

All photos by Walt Cessna.

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