Requiem: Kenny Scharf’s Kosmic Krylon Garage
Once upon a time, a parking garage in Pasadena was home to a series of colorful illustrations of renowned painter Kenny Scharf. Sadly, they’re gone now.
Back in 2004 the now-closed Pasadena Museum of California Art opened “Kenny Scharf: California Grown,” a comprehensive exhibition of the famous surrealist muralist’s work. It was the first tri-level exhibition the museum ever hosted. Numerous paintings and bronze sculptures created by Scharf filled every level of the museum — including the parking garage.
Kosmic Krylon Garage
Over the course of a week, Scharf transformed the otherwise drab concrete of the museum’s parking garage into a visual wonderland filled with his delightfully offbeat characters. Even after the close of Scharf’s exhibition his spray-painted imagery stayed behind on the garage’s walls as the museum’s only permanent installation. It was viewable by all — free of charge — during the museum’s business hours.
Outside, on the east-facing wall of the garage along Union Street, Scharf’s Happy Blue Guy (that’s what we called him, anyway) greeting everyone who walked and drove by, beckoning them to go inside to experience the wonders of the Kosmic Krylon Garage. And then one day, it was all gone.
The Demise of an Installation
On October 7, 2018, after 16 years of operation, the Pasadena Museum of California Art closed its doors for good. Scharf’s murals remained on the walls of the garage for a short time after the museum’s demise, but eventually, after 14 years of dressing up dreary parking spaces, Scharf’s murals were unceremoniously painted over by the new owners at the nearby Fuller Theological Seminary.
You can still see what it looked like in its glory days at Google Arts & Culture, and you can read the description of the show on the now-archived Pasadena Museum of California Art website (thanks to the Internet Archive).
Kenny Scharf Murals Around Los Angeles
Even though the Kosmic Krylon Garage is long gone, Kenny Scharf’s outdoor mural work can be seen all around the streets of Los Angeles. Here are a few places where you can see his murals on the streets of L.A. today.
Robert F. Kennedy School
In 2016, as part of the Branded Arts concept for the “largest open air street art museum west of the Mississippi,” Scharf contributed his talent to the walls of the Robert F. Kennedy Community School. Even though the show only ran for four days, a Scharf mural still dominates the entrance to the school’s parking garage along 8th Street.
Today this mural looks different than it did even earlier in the year. The wall is in a high-graffiti area and, as such, is often vandalized. The design seen here feels a bit different than Scharf’s usual far-out characters, but the figures shown in the upper left inset (which are painted on the wall to the left of the garage entrance) are classic Scharf cartoon faces.
Thanks to Google Street View, we can see what it looked like after being tagged back in April 2021:
West Hollywood Public Library
Unless you’re entering the parking garage at the West Hollywood Public Library, this mural, dating back to 2011, may be hard to see.
It’s painted high on the north-facing exterior wall of the parking garage along the very narrow El Tovar Place. And right now, work is being done along that section of road, which makes this mural even more difficult to take in. But it’s still there.
World Impact Building
One of Kenny’s latest Los Angeles murals covers what was once the dull wall of the World Impact building along The 10 Freeway.
I don’t know anything else about this mural, other than you can easily see it from the freeway, which is how it first caught my eye.
West Adams Boulevard
A mural by Scharf has graced the side of an otherwise non-descript West Adams building for a few years now.
Los Angeles Mission
Another new addition to the city, Scharf took four days to paint a mural inspired by iconic sacred heart imagery on the 66-foot tall facade of the Los Angeles Mission back in July 2021.
Los Angeles: The Canvas of Kenny Scharf
But those aren’t the only places you’ll find a mural by Kenny Scharf — for instance, he’s also famously painted the facade of Davis Bros. Tires on West Washington in Culver City. He’s a working artist living in Los Angeles, so be on the lookout as you drive around town. You never know when you’ll turn a corner and see a freshly painted Scharf mural or — if you’re lucky — a car dressed up with a character from Scharf’s imagination.
To learn more about the fascinating and colorful career of Kenny Scharf, we recommend Kenny Scharf: In Absence of Myth by G. James Daichendt.
In Requiem, we look back at interesting things and places Los Angeles has lost.
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