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A Nuclear Rapture: The Apocalyptic Art of Kenny Scharf

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Abstract The art of Kenny Scharf is paradoxical in nature. He combines carefree cartoon worlds with distinctly religious apocalyptic images of terrifying nuclear holocaust. The odd juxtapositions Scharf creates between the horrific and the benign are the artist’s means of coping with his own apocalyptic anxiety, as well as a critique of the self-destructive behavior of American society in the 1980s. At the time, Ronald Reagan’s strong doomsday rhetoric and his emphasis on the Arms Race collided with the AIDS Crisis, creating a specific 1980s brand of the apocalyptic. Scharf responds to this widespread, heightened anxiety by using the cartoon (and a cartoon-based religion of his own invention) as a purposefully ludicrous anesthetic to numb his apocalyptic fears.

Affiliations: 1: Ball State University Muncie, Indiana


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