New Hillstrom Museum of Art Exhibits Make a Bold Statement Posted on February 13th, 2018 by

Kenny Scharf (b. 1958), "Agua Pollination," 1983, oil and spray paint on canvas, 91 1/2 x 104 1/2 inches, Sexton Collection

The Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College is no stranger to famous artists and stunning exhibits; in fact, that is the norm. However, this one is special, and also a bit…different. “Scharftopia: The Far-Out World of Kenny Scharf,” opens February 19 and features the work of artist Kenny Scharf, a contemporary artist who rubbed shoulders with Andy Warhol and created cover art for the B-52’s.

As you walk into the museum it’s hard to miss the bright colors and eccentric images of Scharf, whose goal is to create art that resonates with everyday people, not just the “art elite.” In fact, Scharf will pay a visit to campus at 4 p.m. on April 22 to give a gallery talk for the public and speak with students. He is clear that creating accessible art does not mean “dumbing down” the art for the masses, instead he says his goal is to draw people in. “It’s about making something that everyone might get inspired to learn something more about and uncover what’s under the surface,” he said in an interview with the gallery’s collector Mats Sexton.

Influenced early in life by sitting too close to the television and watching the dots of color change on cartoons, Scharf developed a unique style that continued to be fostered during his time living in New York in the late 1970s. It was there that he became friends with Andy Warhol and a groupie for the B-52’s. In fact, the Hillstrom Museum of Art exhibit includes a dress that Kate Pearson of the B-52’s sported in concert and on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1990. While in New York, Scharf also attended the School for Visual Arts where he continued to go against the grain, and found that he learned more from the artists he befriended than the classroom.

The February 19 opening from 7–9 p.m. features a gallery talk at 7:30 p.m. by collector Mats Sexton who has become one of the biggest proponents of Scharf’s work and a good friend of the artist. The opening reception, as well as Scharf’s April gallery talk, are open to the public and all are invited to attend.

In addition to Scharf’s works, a second concurrent exhibit features the work of French expressionist Georges Rouault, in “Cirque de L’Etoile Filante”. The works are part of a portfolio that takes a deeper look at the life of the circus. While the bright colors and pageantry of the show dazzle audiences, Rouault wanted to revel the “infinite sadness” that sat beneath the surface. The exhibit features 17 color etchings and 82 wood engravings, along with text written by Rouault.

Director of the Hillstrom Museum of Art, Don Myers ’83, says that while these two exhibits could be seen as quite a contrast there is one important similarity: the boldness of both artists is on display. “I’d like visitors to have a chance to become familiar with this part of Rouault’s work, and with him in general, and I think the images are very strong and typical of this important artist,” he says.

Both exhibits are on display February 19–April 22 at the Hillstrom Museum of Art. The museum entrance is free and is open 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday thru Friday and 1 p.m.­–5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


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