“You know, I’ve been doing emojis before there was an Internet,” says artist @KennyScharf.
He’s been painting his trademark Pop Art emotive faces since the early Eighties, certainly long before the word emoji became part of the digital lexicon in the late Nineties. And Scharf’s colorful faces, informed by Abstract Expressionism, certainly offer up more emotional nuance than the ubiquitous digital yellow smileys. Presented together, his work surveys the subtle variations of human reaction.
The faces run the gamut of color, expression and texture. Sometimes they’re angry, full of scratchy lines, and sometimes they’re happy, almost delusional, with rainbow colors and swirled lines. They can also be confused, or sad, and sometimes they’re worried — as the faces painted in early March were — and sometimes they’re optimistic. Sometimes they have three eyes, or none at all; all of the faces seem happy to be seen.
An irate face, orange and filled in with scrawled black lines, accompanied a June 16 post on Scharf’s Instagram account. In the caption, Scharf wrote about his experience with police brutality as a young white graffiti artist. “I’ve been the target of police brutality more than once in my younger days spray painting in the NYC streets. I learned very early that my life was spared because I am not Black,” he wrote.
“Moodz” will be open by appointment, after months of galleries primarily showing exhibitions online. Although there is always a physical effect of seeing art in person — and certainly given the scale of “Moodz” — Scharf’s work is prime for the digital space. “Obviously, these faces are perfect for the Instagram post,” he says. “And, they just take up a circle and a square.”
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