Retro meets rustic in a funky Los Angleles landscape
Artist Kenny Scharf's hilltop garden is no Monet masterpiece. It is more like a Georgia O'Keeffe -- rocks and concrete pavers set among colorful succulents and exotic cactuses that look like stones and desiccated brains. At one end of this primitive landscape, two sun-bleached imitation-Saarinen dinette chairs stand in a bed of gravel sprinkled with colored glass, beckoning visitors to sit and contemplate the 1988 Scharf bronze "Space Travel."Skip to next paragraph
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The juxtaposition of "Jetsons"-style furniture and statuary in a "Flintstones" setting is particularly apt for Mr. Scharf. The 50-year-old painter and sculptor first shot to fame in the New York City street art scene of the 1980s with paintings that incorporated his favorite characters from those Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
"Barberadise," Scharf's first Los Angeles-area show in four years, will continue this exploration of prehistoric and futuristic forms. It opened Sunday and runs through Oct. 31.
In many ways, Scharf's backyard is an ongoing art installation that incorporates found objects, salvaged plants, and hand-painted planters perched on tree stumps. A casual observer might find that it looks rustic bordering on ramshackle. But the artist considers it a sculpture garden for his work, which includes the bronze water feature "Fountain of Life" and a stack of giant fiberglass "Madglad" teacups with grinning and snarling faces.
"When I found out it was Kenny's own work, that made it even better," he says, adding that he loves living next door to a place that celebrates art and witnessing "the crazy funky wonderful thing that Kenny does with everything he touches."
Scharf says his low-water, minimal-maintenance planting scheme is a creative response to environmental concerns and his own itinerant lifestyle.
"I disconnected my sprinkler system years ago," he says. "I'm against lawns in Los Angeles. I think they're a waste of water. The whole idea of xeriscaping is that it can be left alone. This can pretty much survive on rainwater. As far as water-shortage doomsdays go, it will always be pretty up here."
He replaced his lawn with gravel and created beds of golden barrel cactus, opuntia, organpipe cactus, and succulents such as aeonium, echeveria, and blue senecio. These plants, which he often grows from clippings or rescues from garbage bins, are more beautiful than garden-variety flowers, he says.
"A cactus often grows in a weird way that is individual and gives it personality," Scharf says. "They do whatever they have to do to adapt and survive. Visually, they remind me of coral and the other-worldliness of undersea life."
Scharf had purchased the property 10 years ago. The original owners, founders of the nearby Rolling Greens nursery, landscaped with a variety of drought-tolerant plants along with flowering agapanthus, hibiscus, ficus, and a Brazilian floss silk tree. The front and side yards had gigantic stands of cactuses nearly half a century old, and the garden beds were decorated with rusty farm equipment and gold miners' gear.