Kenny Scharf and Carlos Alfonzo in the New York Times

Carlos Alfonzo (1950-1991) Told, 1990. Oil on linen. 96 1/8 × 72 1/8 in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Mrs. Sena Artigas in memory of Carlos M. Artigas

Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash


FEB. 9, 2017

In New York at the end of the 1970s, many people thought painting was all washed up. And if not washed up, it had to be abstract — the more austere, unemotional and geometric, the better.

Then came the 1980s and a generation of young painters, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and everything changed. With “Fast Forward: Painting From the 1980s,” an irresistible if flawed exhibition, the Whitney Museum tries to sort out how that happened.

The ’80s artists were initially called Neo-Expressionist, an insufficient term, given their stylistic diversity, but one that signaled their accessibility and flair. They drew from art history, the news, graffiti and pop culture. Their work embraced different forms of 

"The work brims with talent and ambition"
 -Roberta Smith, The New York Times













narrative, often with psychological or erotic overtones, and new kinds of self-awareness and worldliness. Even those who painted abstractly had it, in the form of humor or outside references. Across the board, many worked in large scale, often physically eccentric ways.

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"The heady sense of the 1980s is felt right off the elevator in three works rooted in street art and graffiti, each presenting a complex world in a distinct style."  -Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Kenny Scharf (1958-) When the Worlds Collide, 1984. 2016 Oil and acrylic spray paint on canvas. 122 5/16 × 209 5/16 in./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York