Is Kenny Scharf the coolest artist in LA? He just might be.
The Written Interview
In which Kenny Scharf answers some questions sent to him via email.
Your new show at Totah is really great... merging elements of a "traditional" gallery exhibition with a subterranium black-light graffiti installation. Can you tell us a bit about how this latest exhibition took shape?
1. I’ve been talking to David about the show for quite some time. His enthusiasm and critical eye make it interesting and satisfying to plan and talk about the show. I love the scale and the intimacy of the gallery and felt that the audience would be able to really inspect and feel the paintings. Utilizing the basement space I naturally wanted to employ black light because it’s perfect for a room with no natural light where the effects of the black light can be controlled. I’ve been creating under black light for many years and have been making a lot of installations lately using many found objects. This time I wanted to be more simple, direct and pure. Being able to create a whole installation with just me and some spray cans in the black light is spontaneous joy! We thought the upstairs more traditional painting installation with the out of control wild basement would be a great combination.
How would you describe the relationship/connection between your "formal" stretched-canvas paintings and your more freeform, grafitti-style wall work? (is one an extension of the other, for example, or do they have two distinct functions/approaches/vibes for you?)
2. Both floors also very different and look employee similar ways of working. They are both completely spontaneous without any preliminary drawings, one is more refined in it’s technique and materials and the other is more of an outburst of energy directly.
For this new work, you've paired the palette down to three specific colors - red, blue and gray. Can you talk a bit about this specific color choice?
3. Those color choices for the whole floor was actually David‘s idea. Usually when someone suggests that kind of control I naturally reject it but this time I decided it would be cool to experiment with this and in the end I was very happy for I really got deeply into red, blue and gray and feel it draws more attention to the actual paintings with less distraction of complementary opposites and tension of colors,
Several of the paintings in the exhibition incorporate text referencing Global Warming. I'm curious to get your thoughts on "artist as activist" — like, do you think it's important for artists to have a political voice, or do you think it depends/is up to the individual? (we're living in particularly crazy times, so it might make sense for everyone to speak up, right?)
4. I feel that I can’t be quiet about my obsessions which have always been our environment and the danger to our fragile ecosystem. I have been making this my main focus pretty much with all of my messaging either blatant in your face or underlying and subtle, but it’s always there. Lately I feel the need to utilize all of the dire headlines we are all confronting on a daily basis as we enter the most dangerous and stressful moment in our ecological human history. Come on everybody we need to get together and do something!
You came to prominence as an artist while living and working in New York. That said, for the past twenty years or so, Los Angeles has been your home base - specifically Culver City. What drew you to the West Coast, and how do you think that the choice of location has impacted your life and work? (was staying rooted in New York ever a consideration?)
5. New York will always my city. My desires,dreams,and ambitions were shared by like minded young minds in a strategic time in our evolutions as artists. Growing up in LA shaped much of my visual language. Living back here where I grew up feels good and allows me to be connected to the art world yet I am much closer to the sky, trees and the pacific ocean. I left New York in the early 90s feeling lost and sad about the deaths of many of my close friends and loved ones. There were times when I wanted to come back and I actually did briefly a few years ago but I felt priced out of the kind of space that I needed and was used to working in. LA was much more open and easy at that time. Now I live a few blocks from my grandkids so I am not going anywhere far away for too long!
What is inspiring to you right now? Whether that means inspiring in general to you, or to your work. (curious to hear what you are finding exciting and inspiring at the moment - any artists/writers/music/etc. that you can share info on?)
6. I am waking up every day excited to continue to learn and explore. This is what I find exciting, not knowing where I’m going and being open to “mistakes” which almost always leads to new discoveries. I listen to a lot of music when I paint. Lately I’ve been vibing on Anderson Paak’s new album Ventura, it’s really uplifting.
Ok, we just had to ask (sorry!) for one anecdote from your early days hanging out with Keith Haring, Basquiat, Baechler, etc. Is there a particular unique/funny/insightful story that perhaps you've never shared before?
7. So many memories and fun times before the bad. Mostly it’s the little things that I miss and think about like a smile or a hug more than antidotes and stories which there are too many to tell.
What are you currently working on/what's next/upcoming? (what projects/exhibition/etc. are in the works?)
8. Yesterday, today and tomorrow I have been painting a big mural on a parking garage near my house. Making some large ceramic pieces,assemblages and paintings for my upcoming show at Honor Fraser gallery in September and another gallery show si Susan Baik gallery October in Seoul. Looking forward in April to a major survey at Moca Tucson. I might be forgetting something but in the meantime feel free to ask me more. Thanks, Kenny.
The Phone Interview
A transcription of an informal phone call between the artist and the interviewer.
Kenny: Hi Dan.
Dan: Hi Kenny. How are you doing?
Kenny: Good, how are you?
Dan: Good. Thank you so much. It's such a treat to get to talk to you.
Kenny: Thank you.
Dan: Of course. [crosstalk 00:01:00] So cool. No, I'm thrilled. Yeah, and I was just reading over your answers and they were great. They were really cool. I appreciate it. I'm recording this just in case we talk and there's some stuff if that's cool.
Kenny: Of course, I would assume that.
Dan: Cool. Yeah. Okay, cool. Good. Is this still a good time to talk for a few?
Kenny: It's all good, all's good. Sometimes you think that I'm lost in the thought, I'm painting, so once in a while I'll go silent, and then I'll resume. So don't worry if I get silent every once in a while.
Dan: Oh, that's awesome. No. Cool. Cool. Cool.
Dan: So yeah. Okay, cool. So you have your studio here, is it in Culver City or where's your studio now?
Kenny: Now it's in Inglewood.
Dan: I'm sorry, where is it?
Dan: Oh, Inglewood. Oh cool. That's really close. Yeah.
Kenny: Where are you?
Dan: I'm in Del Rey or like the Mar Vista area, so I'm super close.
Kenny: Okay. Close to...I live in Culver City, so...
Dan: Oh, beautiful stuff. Yeah. Yeah.
Kenny: [inaudible 00:02:09]
Dan: So yeah. So I was curious, I wrote down a couple of questions. This is just came to mind though. It's like, when did you come to Culver City and was it before all these galleries started popping up over there? Like, you know, even on the [Fraser 00:02:22] and, yeah. What is it about the area that just, it became like a hotbed for all this art?
Kenny: Well, I moved back...I grew up in LA, but I didn't even know...I knew Culver City for the movie theater. When I was in high school, I used to go to the movie theater and for like the jean stores. Oh, I remember it was called the Surprise Store, but that's about all I knew in Culver City. And then so when I was coming to move back in 98, I moved in in 99 I wanted to live in Venice because I liked the beach and then it was already too expensive. So then I looked Mar Vista and I didn't find anything I liked. And so I said, "Okay, I'm gonna go further east." And I saw this hill and I was like, "What is on this hill?" It was very weird, like I don't remember this hill. And then I went up the hill on the list of the next place I was going to look at and I found this crazy garden on this hill. And so that's why.
Kenny: And everyone kept saying, "Why are you in Culver City?" Because back then there was nothing, like absolutely nothing...
Dan: Really? Wow. That's crazy.
Kenny: One coffee shop and a Thai restaurant and that movie theater and no traffic at all. It was amazing.
Dan: That's crazy. This is like 98-99?
Kenny: 99, Yeah.
Dan: Oh my God.
Kenny: It was a dead zone over there where I am. Where I am now I can't even leave the house. I'm locked in it's rush hour.
Dan: Oh really? It's just like that much traffic and everything? It's crazy...
Kenny: Yeah. Have you been on those steps in Culver City or the people walk up the hill?
Kenny: That's where I live.
Dan: Oh cool. Cool. That's a great area.
Kenny: I'm on that locked up and like, I used to have that hill all to myself. For years, I would take my dogs up there and there was all this weird stuff before it was a park and no one even knew it was there and it was very bizarre because I'd be like, how can I have this to myself in the middle of LA? But it went on for like 10 years. I had that.
Dan: That's amazing.
Kenny: Anyway, yeah.
Dan: And then when did... Who were like the first galleries that started coming in there? Was it Blum & Poe or was it... Who it came in on that block?
Kenny: I remember that that guy Honor shared the gallery with David Quadrini. He has a space that was big and then Honor took half and then on eventually took it over from him. So I remember that. Yeah, I was there way before the galleries or restaurants or anything like that.
Dan: Yeah. And speaking of that...
Kenny: It was interesting, when the galleries came there, because I'm part of Honor Fraser and I was like, "Oh this is so cool, right near my house."
Dan: Right, right. So were you with them already before they need to Culver?
Kenny: Well, not really, she had a space in Venice that I would go to the openings, but I don't think it was anything official like now, that I've been with her for so many years already.
Dan: Yeah. And curious like, so speaking of that, like how you connect with her and like pick her? I'm always curious about that. Like the relationship with the artists and the galleries that they work with. You know, sometimes it's like purely a business relationship, sometimes it's personal, sometimes it's a mix. And I'm just curious, like for you, that one or just in general, like how you approached it?
Kenny: I think it was a mix, pretty much. I knew Stavros I went to their wedding and then I found out that she's a cousin of one of my closest friends.
Dan: Oh wow. Small world.
Kenny: ...who lives in London, a Scottish girl. And so I immediately... You know, there was that connection there.
Dan: And you've been together for like a long time.
Kenny: Yeah, we've had a few shows. Yeah.
Dan: That's amazing.
Kenny: And another one coming up.
Dan: Oh yeah.
Kenny: [inaudible 00:06:14]
Dan: ...in September. Cool. I'll definitely come to that one for sure. That's awesome.
Kenny: Yay. Cool.
Dan: And then... Okay, so now you mentioned something about like, you were... You toyed with going back to New York even though you're from LA in like, a while ago, but then you just, you were like... Well first we'll step back, sorry. You left New York because you were kind of like, done with it because of bad memories and stuff. Is that right?
Kenny: Mhmm. But I did move back to New York. I had a place for about, I think it was about five years, like 2005, 2000, something like that. I had a place in Brooklyn. So I did go back, and then I was going back and forth and I was like, I'm tired of the back and forth. So I just stayed here because it's so much nicer. And my grandkids.
Kenny: I like being with my grandkids.
Dan: Aw, how old are your grandkids?
Kenny: Four and seven.
Dan: Oh that's so great. And they're like really close by?
Kenny: Oh yeah, they live in the neighborhood. So I see them all the time and I miss them so much. And then honestly, you know, New York has changed so much that sometimes I feel that it doesn't really matter where you are, kind of. Like, you can kind of function anywhere. And my door, when I would open in Brooklyn, would be like trucks banging. And then in my yard in LA, I'm like, I have, you know, hummingbirds. I was like, hmm, why do I want to live up there?
Dan: I know. I mean I'm from California too. And I lived in New York for like 15-16 years and I just moved back...
Kenny: [inaudible 00:07:52]
Dan: ...a couple of years ago. And I was just like... I was like done with it. It was like the weather, the traffic the everything about it, you know? Everything.
Kenny: It's so nice here.
Kenny: Especially, like, on the west side where we live. Yeah.
Dan: And my wife and I were always like, "Do we want to go live somewhere more east? Because there's more stuff." That's the one downside, is like, there's... You know, like getting to art shows and stuff that aren't in Culver City. It's like, it sometimes takes a while.
Kenny: Well yesterday I went to the Wende museum. Have you been there?
Dan: Oh yeah. Totally. Yeah.
Kenny: That show that I have now. So cool.
Dan: Is it, what is it? Yeah, I didn't know...
Kenny: It was like Soviet television.
Dan: Oh my God.
Kenny: Yeah, it's really cool. And then they have this rock and gem show right there at the veterans center, which was also weird and cool. And I was like, "This is so weird." I love it.
Dan: Oh, that's cool.
Kenny: But yeah, Culver City doesn't have much going on, but good restaurants. I mean, I don't know anyone in Culver City and I've been there 20 years and I still never see anyone that I know. Which is nice. But it's weird.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. So speaking of that, who do you hang out with now? Like artists or is it more like family? You're like doing your work, or like are you part of any, kind of, art community or network or anything like that or are you beyond all that?
Kenny: Well, I'm not beyond anything. I just... I don't have a lot of time, people can come visit me, but then I have to kick them out because I don't want people around all the time. And then, you know, so it's like unfortunately I don't get to see my friends very often.
Kenny: But yes, I do have artist friends, Ed Ruscha's Studio is underneath my house.
Dan: Oh no way, that's cool.
Kenny: Yeah, I looked down on Ed.
Dan: Oh, that's awesome. ...
Kenny: I look down on him. Yeah. It's kind of wild, but it's true. And...
Dan: That's crazy.
Kenny: ...then there's an artist nearby, Kristin Calabrese near me that I liked, that I've been friends with for a while and her studio's nearby here in Inglewood. But honestly I don't see anybody.
Dan: Who is that?
Kenny: Kristin Calabrese. And then my old friend Ann Magnuson, she lives in Silver Lake so I never see her. And then... But there is a friend from those times, her name's Alexa Hunter that lives in my neighborhood. And because of that, I see her quite often. It's all about what neighborhood you live in.
Dan: Totally here for sure.
Kenny: Yeah. If you're going to see anyone.
Kenny: I'm a casual way.
Dan: Totally right. Not like an intimate friends thing, but like, yeah, it's just different and it's... Okay, you didn't share... There are too many stories, you were saying about, like, your time in New York when you were coming up, but I guess, is it cool to talk about that time? Just a few things. Just like in general?
Kenny: Yeah, what would you like to know? I'd be happy to tell you. Any specifics I'd be happy to tell you.
Dan: Oh cool. Well, I'd I'd be curious... Like, so when you came out of school and you were starting to do your work and like how first like how you.... Oh, I guess going back to when you kind of first developed your style, like what was sort of the influence of your style? Was it like looking at things on the street? Was it cartoons, what was it? A mix of it all?
Kenny: Everything that I... All my life experiences growing up, you know, with cartoons and pop and plastic and colors and TV and movies and blah. And then living in down and out in New York City in the late seventies, the contrast and the painting that I saw on the street, of course, and the people that I met who were painting in the street, the whole combination.
Kenny: I mean I felt a lot of similarities between this kind of street art, which is more like, in LA when I grew up would be van art, like those airbrush stuff and bubble lettering. It was very similar to the stuff I was seeing on the trains. And those are the kinds of things that I looked at as a kid and that I was like, you know, making sketches and stuff and doodling and things like that. So I felt an affinity immediately towards the subject matter of cartoons. And you know, hippie... The bubble lettering is actually very hippy when you look at it. It's psychedelic.
Dan: Oh, interesting, yeah.
Kenny: So that's totally my world as well.
Dan: And did you have dreams or was intend to be in like the fine art world that you ended up going into, with the galleries, you know, or did that just kind of just happen for you?
Kenny: Well, you know, I had major ambition. That's enough to get me to move to New York, you know, but you don't really know what you want so bad, but you definitely want something. And for a while it was a lot of fun trying to get there with your friends and that would be the fun part of, you know, when I'm in New York. And then it happened when people started to attain it and then everything got a little different. Whereas, you know, there was like competition all of a sudden and people were threatened and that whole...the ambience changed. As well as people were dying of AIDS at the same time, so the party, you know, wasn't so fun. Even though we were making money and successful at that time, it just wasn't as fun because we didn't get to enjoy it when people are dying....
Dan: God that's...
Kenny: ...It's kind of hard to celebrate your success when people or friends are dying.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah, I mean...
Kenny: So that was my first success was when my friends were dying.
Dan: Oh my God. Yeah. That was like insane. Right? Like we're talking like the mid eighties, early-mid eighties at that point?
Dan: Fuck. So, yeah. Okay. Talking about some experiences back in that period of your life, would you say you were closer friends with people like Keith Haring, or... You were in that whole crew of like...
Kenny: Yeah, Keith was a very close friend of mine. We shared a space together up by Bryant Park.
Dan: Oh wow.
Kenny: You know, he became my daughter [Zena's 00:14:13] Godfather. You know, we were very close. He was one of the most important people in my life, which I... He still is. So yeah, I was very close to Keith. Jean Michel I was close to very early on. I introduced Jean Michel to Keith.
Dan: Oh Wow.
Kenny: I met Jean Michel in 78 and we used to go around the streets together and we had a very, kind of, intense relationship. And then it kind of soured it was very volatile let's just say for many years. Stressful for me.
Kenny: We kind of reunited and I didn't know he was about to be gone, but we did, kind of, reunite before he died.
Dan: If you don't mind me asking, when you say it was intense and volatiles, can you touch on that just a little bit more? I mean you don't have to...
Kenny: Oh yeah. He would sabotage me all the time. He was like literally out to get me.
Kenny: Like you know, he... yeah, he told me... He apologized once and I was like, "Why are you...," you know. And he said this was very sad. He said, "Because you're happy."
Dan: Oh my God.
Kenny: And that really tugged my heart strings. And I was totally like, "okay." And I was so happy that I was like going to be his friend again. And then the very next day it was as if that never happened and he just treated me like.... After that I was like, "Okay, that's it. I'm not falling for any of this again." And then we kind of reunited after, when he was kind of like more sad and then he died.
Dan: Oh my God. Did you see it coming or was it just a complete shock that....
Kenny: Well, we saw that he was depressed and that he had problems, but no one thought someone was going to die, you know. That was a shocker.
Dan: Yeah, for sure. Oh my God.
Kenny: I mean we had AIDS going on, but it didn't... No one thought that he had that, he seemed fine just more into the drugs and banging [inaudible 00:16:23]. You're gone.
Dan: Yeah, on the side note, just off the record, like have you kept up with all this team, with like him and Mary Boone and all that stuff? Like, with what just happened with her and all that...
Kenny: Oh, sure. How could you miss it? Jeez.
Dan: What do you think happened? This is all off the record here? I'm just curious. Like, she...
Kenny: Well, I mean, I don't think she's the stablest person in the world. I've had a few experiences recently that kind of shocked me of her behavior. So I wasn't surprised that she'd be doing that and that she actually thought she could get away with it. That was another thing I'm not surprised at. You know, I wish nothing bad for her but, you know, definitely could see that one coming.
Dan: Sure. But it was just a weird, like, somebody who's operating at that level of business like, she's like...
Kenny: Well when you have like issues, you know, I really think she has serious mental issues and you could be very successful at what you do and still have real big problems.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, fair enough. So speaking of like being happy and all that, do you have... Like your work is really happy and it seems like you value these things like living in a good place and being around family and stuff. Do you have like a general philosophy that you carried your life about maintaining sort of a focus on positive or anything like that?
Kenny: Yeah. That's funny. I just talked to some lady in Spain, in an interview today, and I was talking about that optimism and I said basically I'm a realist and I see every little piece of shit that's freaking out. And if I'm not an optimist I will kill myself. So I maintain... This optimism is out of necessity.
Dan: That's amazing. Mind balance. We're walking here... [crosstalk 00:18:22]
Kenny: I need it. I have to create it myself because it's just too overwhelming, the negativity, and I feel I need to fight it all the time.
Dan: Wow. That's amazing.
Kenny: It's a battle.
Dan: Yeah. You seem really positive and you're always.... [crosstalk 00:18:43]
Kenny: Optimistic battle, constantly going on.
Dan: Oh jeez.
Kenny: Otherwise I see no reason to live.
Kenny: Without being on optimism, why be alive? I just don't get it. I just can't do it.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. I was just listening to something on the NPR today. I guess there's like some really successful Gamer, who seems to have all these followers on YouTube, you know, they have like YouTube channels, and I think he just committed suicide. Nobody knew that he was not happy. You know what I mean? I just to feel like we're all on like this very tenuous string of mental stability, of happiness, it is crazy and like...
Kenny: Yeah, success and happiness don't really go hand in hand. And you know, that happens a lot. People work really hard and attain the success and it doesn't make stuff better, you know, that wasn't good to begin with.
Dan: That's so crazy. It's so true. And it just kind of shocking when that happens because it just seems like certain people have it all... Like Anthony Youtube for instance. Like, like I had all that...
Kenny: Yeah, I was thinking of him.
Kenny: The guy was just... Had it all right? He was so witty and what a great show and, so sad. I was so shocked. And then I think, of course, it's like, "How could you..." I understand it's a self... When you're in the throes of that you can't see reality, but he had a kid so I don't understand. Like, that's the bad thing because that's really going to be hard for that kid forever.
Dan: Oh my God.
Kenny: I don't understand how you could do that to your child, no matter how depressed you are.
Kenny: Then again, I've never been that depressed where I really wanted to kill myself.
Kenny: Because I maintain my optimistic war, so.
Dan: I like that. The optimistic war. Did you feel like drawing and painting these, like, really happy figures is part of that?
Kenny: Mhmm. Sure.
Dan: Yeah. That's cool.
Kenny: I want to feel that happiness and joy, the portraying...
Kenny: And it makes me happy. If I make a perfect smile, I feel like that smile, you know?
Dan: Yeah. I find that more and more. I mean, I love color and bright things and I just realized, like, surrounding myself with that stuff makes me happy. And I just want to do that more and more. Yeah.
Kenny: Yeah. And then don't be embarrassed about it. I think, for a long time people were like ashamed. You can't enjoy stuff because it's not serious if you really enjoy it.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah.
Kenny: I think that's a problem that's still going on.
Dan: Making people feel bad about enjoying what they enjoy or like being happy or what?
Kenny: Well that if it's enjoyable, it's not really serious and it's not very important.
Dan: Yeah. No, that's a reason. Another thing, because like you're, so like, in the art world it seems, you know, that very austere work, you know, seems to be given like a Youtube status. And so, it seems more challenging when your work is super positive or has humor to it, to like to battle against that. But it's definitely a choice. And I think it's not the easy choice. I feel like there's that route, the road that a lot of artists go down to do that kind of austere work. And so that's obviously something you've had to think about, but that's just not who you are as an artist or a person it sounds like.
Kenny: No, not at all. I mean, why do anything unless it's what is true? You can't change that. Nor you should ever try because you're ruined if you do. Even if you want to, then you're ruined.
Kenny: It's that alone.
Dan: So you're saying just be... Just do what comes natural to you and what feels good?
Kenny: Yeah, you have to believe in it all the way. You can't fake anything. You can get away with it for a while, but I don't think you'll get away with it in the end. That's my true belief. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the faith will live on, but I believe it.
Dan: Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense.
Dan: So you split your time....You say you're super busy all the time. Are you mostly working there? You say you're traveling. What are you up to these days?
Kenny: I'm so happy to be back from all the travels. For two weeks I went to Ibiza and New York and I just painted like, murals, and had openings and it was so intense. And then I got back and I did a giant mural, like a five story parking garage...
Dan: Oh my gosh.
Kenny: ...and yeah. And I feel like... I couldn't believe it and I was so tired and now I'm recovering and I'm so happy to be back in my studio. That's really... I don't want to go anywhere. I hate traveling and I don't want to go anywhere and now they're trying to pull me to go here and there and I'm like [inaudible 00:23:53]
Dan: How do you tackle a five story euro like that?
Kenny: It's fun. I spray paint, it's super fast, you know?
Kenny: It took me three days. So...
Dan: No way!
Kenny: [inaudible 00:24:09]
Dan: Do you have like a team? Do you do it yourself? Is it all...
Kenny: I had a guy driving this, you know, the lift, like a cherry-picker lift. So I had a guy driving it and no, I don't have anybody to help me paint it. It's just spray paint and nobody can really help you. And I make it up on the spot, I don't really know what exactly I'm doing anyway, so how could I... You know, it's not color-in like you can have someone else do it for you.
Dan: Right, and so it's like on the spot. It's like as improvisation as you do it.
Kenny: Exactly. And I was telling this guy who was interviewing me there, I was like, "Think about it." I was like "A jazz musician who has all of their repertoire, their notes, their tricks, you know, they learned it, they're good musicians. And they have kind of a idea of where they're going to go, but they kind of go where they, where it takes you." And that's very similar to how I paint those murals.
Dan: Like you have art kit, you know where you're going, you're a musician and then you just go and it always works out.
Kenny: Yeah. And you and you have faith and you learn things on the way. You didn't know where you were going. It's very adventurous.
Kenny: It's exciting for me not knowing, you know, what it's going to be.
Dan: Is that weird? Like, you'll work on one scale, you know, like doing figures and then all of a sudden you're doing it on five times as big. Right? If it's ahead or something it's got to be a lot bigger...
Kenny: Yeah, constantly changing.
Kenny: I love it. Like right now I'm painting little tiny details, with oil paint. And last week I was paying a giant mural using my whole body.
Dan: Yeah. Oh, so you like you're working in oil paint also?
Kenny: Yeah, right now. Yeah.
Dan: So like, yeah. So how do you like doing that? Because that's a much slower kind of result in the blending.
Kenny: It's slower, for sure.
Dan: Yeah. Do you find you liked that? Do you enjoy that part?
Kenny: I love it. I do love it. I just have less time these days than I used to, so I agree to more projects when it involves just spray paint, because I know I could knock out something. And like mostly for shows and stuff. Although I just had a show and the [deeds 00:26:33] of it was all spray painting. Spray painting is working out for me.
Dan: That's awesome.
Kenny: It's really fun, you know. It's like bang, like you can do a giant mural and change the whole space in a few days, it's great.
Dan: So when you do it...
Kenny: How many other things you could do like that. It costs a lot of... And it's cheap. It's just me.
Kenny: You know, it doesn't require a technology other than a lift.
Dan: That's it?
Kenny: So I think it's pretty good. Yeah.
Dan: What kind of spray paints do you use?
Kenny: I use this brand of... They should sponsor me because it's the only brand I use, it's called "Montana Gold."
Dan: "Montana Gold."
Kenny: And it's not as poisonous for me cause it's acrylic. It doesn't give me this lingering sick feeling. But I know it's not healthy and I do wear a mask. But yeah, I use this "Montana Gold," they've got a lot of beautiful colors. I just, yeah, that's what I use.
Dan: Where do you get it? Where your art store?
Kenny: Oh, any art store.
Dan: They'll have it?
Kenny: Everybody has it. Yeah.
Dan: Is there like a favorite art store in LA? Because I mean remember there's "Pearl Paint" in New York which closed down.
Kenny: Yeah, well I live right near Graphaids and they have the paint. So it's always on my way, so I go there.
Dan: Oh, cool. Cool. And how many did you go through when you're doing like a mural?
Kenny: It all depends, you know, on how big the mural is. I mean a can goes pretty far. You'd be surprised. But I go through some cans, yeah. I don't know a couple dozen. I don't know.
Dan: When I first moved here, or even before I moved here, back here, I would come through down to Culver City and I remember seeing like there's a garage down there and I think it was had your...
Kenny: Davis Brothers.
Dan: Yeah, that was it. That was cool. Did you just do that as like a favor to them or was that special?
Kenny: Well, I did, but they thought of it as they were doing a favor to me, which is fine. This guy I met, his name is Brandon... I mean Warren. He gets artists to do... Mostly he's into like graffiti art and stuff like that, walls and stuff, so. He said, "All right, hey, I have this wall and I live in Culver City." So yeah, I was like, "I'm happy to do it." And it's pretty cool because it's about five, six years already, so that's good amount of time for a mural.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. It's the same. I forgot there were like these brothers, and I forgot who they are. I'd have to remember it starts with an O and I think they did like a mural that was on Sepulveda on the side of this building. It was really great. And then I just saw them just paint complete over it. It just felt terrible to see it. And don't know if they knew what was going down but it was part of it. Yeah.
Kenny: Yeah, it is part of it. And when something lasts a long time it's always surprising.
Kenny: I just heard that I have another mural in West Hollywood. It's seven stories high, it's getting covered over by a building in front of the West Hollywood Library parking garage. I haven't been there, but I keep hearing like, "they're covering up your mural."
Dan: And how do you feel about it? You're just like, that goes with the territory?
Kenny: I didn't... Well, I feel bad. I mean, I can't believe they're doing that because basically that means they're building in the park. And I really thought that mural was always safe because it faced the park. But obviously they're not.
Dan: No. Yeah. So you're a grandfather?
Dan: So how old were you? You must have been pretty young. You had your kid.
Kenny: Yeah, I was way too young to know what I was getting involved with, but I was 25.
Dan: Wow. Yeah.
Kenny: 25 thinking I was a full on adult and I should have a child. But now I have grandkids from her, so it was all worth it.
Dan: Yeah. So that's good...
Kenny: Whether or not I knew what I was getting into. That spontaneity thing.
Dan: Right, right, right.
Kenny: It goes with everything.
Dan: So yeah, you went with it and then the marriage didn't last but the grandkids did and the kids and everything.
Kenny: I'm so happy. I'm so lucky and blessed.
Dan: What... Okay, so I don't have any kids and I hope one day I will. My wife can't have kids, but I'm just curious, what is that experience like for you? I mean the kid and the grandkid, and the joy that brings you.
Kenny: Well, I'll tell you, having a kid is really, really hard and sometimes you kind of are jealous of friends that don't. But then I have to say having grandkids makes it all worthwhile, because you just get all the good and then you don't have all that unbelievable responsibility that it is so hard. I mean so responsible. So, it's the best I can tell you.
Dan: Yeah, oh that's great. And you get to spoil them and just hang out with them and ...
Kenny: Yeah, and they're so cute and you get to experience that childhood again. It's amazing. Because I'm like a five year old, so I hang out with five year olds.
Dan: What's your secrets to have that kind of, fresh mindset. to keep that and always be interested in stuff like...
Kenny: Well I don't know, I'm always... kind of have that child thing going on in my brain. I'm always looking at everything and being bewildered and amazed by rainbows, butterflies, flowers, you know, I look at flowers and and trees and I focus on all that stuff. And I think it's fascinating.
Dan: Oh, by the way, one of the questions I asked you is like what was inspiring you? And on that note you said Anderson Pack or Paik?
Kenny: Oh, Anderson Pock. Yeah. Have you listened...
Dan: I just started listening to it. It's really great. I don't know anything about him.
Kenny: So much fun.
Dan: It was really good.
Kenny: He's an LA dude. He's like an Inglewood kid.
Dan: Oh no way.
Kenny: Yeah. It's just so good and fun and up and, and good, like really good, you know, talent. And I heard him live. He was amazing.
Dan: Wow. Yeah. I don't know if I listened to the right thing. I just told Siri "play it" and it sounded a little bit like they have some Prince to it or something.
Kenny: Yeah, exactly. A little Prince in there, a little Smokey Robinson, a little bit of Stevie Wonder, like all the good stuff. And then of course the Rap-y stuff, you know, like Dry Dre or whatever. But I really love this kid. And so the one I listened to, the new one is Ventura and then the other one Malibu is also really good. I don't know the other ones so well.
Dan: Oh, that's awesome. I totally dig it. Okay. I gotta check that one out too. I'm gonna listen to the rest of this album later today.
Kenny: Yeah, it's great. So much fun. I get really hooked on it.
Dan: Cool. I know I have more questions, but this is great. I mean I think this is like tons of good information.
Kenny: It's always better to talk a little in person. I agree.
Dan: Yeah, and I feel like I have more but I'm going to transcribe this and it's good to get a sense of your philosophy and, like, pepper that in to and all that good stuff and...
Kenny: Yeah, it makes you work more, which is nice. Like working hard.
Dan: Totally, totally. He's not just having you write the questions. There we go. Yeah, s thank you so much. It's such an honor. I mean I have more questions but I don't want to take up more of your time. This is great.
Kenny: You should come by the studio. I didn't realize you were here.
Dan: Yeah, I would love to.
Kenny: When are you going to come?
Dan: When? When's a good time? I'll come over.
Kenny: Any time. I'm home. I'm here, I'm back in town. I'm not going anywhere, so I'm in Inglewood and this number is my studio, so if I don't answer, Dave will answer.
Dan: Then how about later this week if you're around, that'd be cool.
Kenny: Yeah, come by later this week.
Dan: Okay, cool. I'll touch base in the next day or so. I'd really appreciate it. That'd be awesome.
Kenny: Excellent. I'm looking forward.
Dan: Same here. Thank you, Kenny. That's so nice of you. I'm looking forward to it.
Kenny: You live here. I didn't realize.
Dan: Totally. Yeah, I'm in the hood.
Kenny: Yeah, there you go.
Dan: Cool, man. Thank you so much.
Kenny: We've got the interview part over, so now you can just hang out for a minute.
Dan: Oh, that'd be perfect. I'll bring a beer or like a non-alcoholic cocktails drink thing, it won't ...
Kenny: I just smoke weed, but I'll smoke weed.
Dan: Okay. You smoked weed?
Dan: Yeah. I wish I could. I used to...
Kenny: That's all you do.
Dan: That's all you do. Okay, cool.
Kenny: If you want a beer, bring a beer and have a beer. That's great.
Dan: Okay, cool. And if I have any weed, you don't bring that.
Kenny: There's some always around. There a a [inaudible 00:35:22] cross the street.
Dan: Okay. Oh good. Okay, cool, man. I'm looking forward to coming over.
Kenny: Me too, bye Dan.
The Studio Visit
In which the interviewer visits the artist in his massive Inglewood studio space and gets served an espresso.