Kenny Scharf was born in Hollywood, California, in 1958. He studied briefly at an art college in Santa Barbara before moving to New York where he graduated in 1980 from the School of Visual Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Kenny Scharf had his first solo exhibition in 1979 at Fiorucci in New York.
While at college Scharf met and became friends with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he shared an interest in popular culture and graffiti. All three of them became important members of the graffiti art movement in the 1980s, though Scharf describes his work as being "Pop Surrealist." In his work Scharf comments on the imagery and ideology of Western mass culture, combining language (both English and Yiddish), paint, screen print and images into a blurred vision. Scharf uses imagery from his youth in California throughout his work, for instance his depicting of figures of Hanna Barbera cartoons.
In 1983 his work was shown for the first time at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and in the same year he exhibited at The Bienal de São Paulo and at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid. His work is part of many public collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Sogetsu Museum in Tokyo.
Kenny Scharf lives and works in New York and has a studio in Los Angeles.