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Kenny Scharf Navigates NYC's '80s Art Scene in 'When Worlds Collide'

Showcasing a much darker side to the notorious pop art period.

A new documentary entitled Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide is spotlighting New York City’s notorious downtown art scene from the 1980s. Centering upon the perspective of the Scharf, the film’s titular subject, the film navigates various moments with then-budding artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The movie also sheds light on talents that have long been overlooked from the era such as artists Martin Wong, David Wojnarowicz, Greer Lankton, and Tseng Kwong Chi, all of whom died of AIDS-related causes. Directed by Max Basch and Malia Scharf (the artist’s daughter), this film places Scharf at the center of this significant art chapter.

One of the most significant aspects of the film is how it places Scharf in the center of a number of unfortunate occurrences that occurred during that vivid period of pop art. There’s a segment about the AIDS crisis, which sees Scharf retelling tearful visit to the HIV-positive artist Haring while he was on his deathbed. This sequence sparks a montage of visuals of artists who also died of AIDS-related complications, including Tseng Kwong Chi and John Sex.

Moreover, the film sheds light on Scharf’s earliest works including his earlier pieces that featured otherworldly atmospheres populated with smiley figures in neon hues. This is serious art,” Scharf said at one point in the film and then whimsically added “to me.” Excitement surrounding the works of Scharf’s peers grew immensely, especially for Basquiat and Haring, who immersed themselves in the fine contemporary art circuit. When Haring garnered success, “it was hard on the ego,” Scharf confessed.

Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide is now available to stream online here.

Elsewhere in art, B. Thom Stevenson is showcasing anarchist works at The Journal Gallery in NYC.

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