Executed in the early 1980s, when the Californian artist Kenny Scharf was at his zenith in New York City, See Me epitomises the figurative surrealism for which the artist is celebrated. Emerging from an aqueous texture, or perhaps floating above it, a bizarre, red coloured - but still human- face stares at the viewer whilst an alien-like creature peeps over the edge of the canvas laughing and baring its teeth. Following his celebrated series based on the animated cartoons The Flintstones and The Jetsons, Scharf created a series of large-scale paintings rendering anthropomorphic creatures and imagined animals inhabiting brightly coloured dreamscapes.
The appearance of Scharf’s surreal dreamscapes owes something to the aesthetics of New York City’s graffiti culture from the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was during those years that the artist would meet his fellow roommate Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the School of Visual Arts, all three of them becoming leading members of the so-called East Village Art Movement. A muralist, painter, sculptor and installation artist, Scharf’s oneiric universes from the early 1980s interrogate the unconscious, bringing to mind those of the surrealist paintings by De Chirico, Yves Tanguy or Max Ernst. As the artist has explained: ‘There’s nothing abstract in my canvases, at most strangely shaped objects. The forms and outlines are softer, more open and organic, but they are still physical objects that come from the unconscious. But then, all the forms that are dictated from the unconscious.’ (K. Scharf, quoted in F. Alinovi, “Twenty-First Century Slang”, in Flash Art International, November 1983, p. 30).