Kenny Scharf’s “Cosmic Cavern” immerses viewers in a day-glo universe at the Portland Art Museum

Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern immerses viewers in a day-glo universe densely packed with graffiti tags, detritus, and everyday objects reimagined as cartoon personalities. This surreal world comes to life under the fluorescent black lighting reminiscent of clubs and discos of the 1980s, a central inspiration for this party environment turned art installation. In 1981 Scharf created the first version in the closet of the small New York apartment he shared with artist Keith Haring. Since then, he has transformed basements, galleries, museums, RVs, and even suitcases into this psychedelic, multi-sensory experience. Cosmic Cavern exemplifies Scharf’s brand of Pop Surrealism, a blend of graffiti writing, cartoon imagery, dreamy futuristic environments, and bright, saccharine colors. A playful spirit and an offbeat sense of wonder abound in this democratic approach, which Scharf intentionally contrasts to the seriousness often assigned to “high

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