One of the last true pop artists, Steve Kaufman is considered a legend by many. Known for his humanitarian work as well as for his art, he has left an exceptional oeuvre behind, depicting the most recognizable and revered cultural icons. Infused with elements of popular culture, advertising and graffiti art, Kaufman’s style is unmistakably identified among other representatives of the Pop Art genre.
At the age of 19, while still a student, Steve Kaufman got a job at Andy Warhol’s Factory. He was sincerely fascinated with the great artist, the patriarch of Pop Art. As a consequence, the time he spent at The Factory influenced the young artist profoundly, leaving a traceable mark on his visual language. Captivated with the qualities of fame, Kaufman chose to paint distinguished symbols, from brand names to celebrity portraits. Resorting to image appropriation, juxtaposition, and abstraction, all saturated with a bold palette, the artist created numerous paintings that converse with the broadest public, but offer an abundance of relevant layers beneath the likable surface. Lady Liberty and Coca-cola logo were among his favorite subjects, while his body of portraits includes representations of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis, among others. Even though his work was leaning on the idea of mass-production and pop culture, Kaufman painted his screen-printed canvases by hand, making each one unique and considering himself an expert in oil painting.
A part of Pop Art royalty, Steve Kaufman had a rather turbulent life. In his youth, he was associated with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, while his beginnings are inherently tied to the graffiti culture. These ties prompted the artist to engage in humanitarian activities in his studio, employing homeless, convicted and gang kids to work in his studio. He was also survived shooting thrice over, stabbing, poisoning, scalping, multiple traffic accidents and severe health problems during his lifetime. None of the difficulties he faced stopped him from his artistic and charitable work.
Steve Kaufman was born on December 29, 1960, in the Bronx, New York. He passed away preparing and exhibition in Vail, Colorado on February 12, 2010, after a fatal heart attack that followed a series of strokes in the previous period. In concordance with his own philosophy, he never ceased to paint and exhibit his work, while the act of creation has always been his ultimate dream.
“I’m truly blessed to be doing what I’ve always wanted – CREATE. I have found a freedom that is hard to put into words. I always wondered about my projects – which artists are working on what, and which directions should I take? I don’t even think of those things now. I passionately go into my studio and ask myself, what would I like to create today?” - Steve Kaufman
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