Brooklyn-based artist Brian Donnelly, widely known as KAWS, enlists the seemingly incongruent techniques of pop art, toy-making, graffiti, product design, and sculpture to create a body of work that is at once universal and provocative, disconcerting and delightful. This will be the largest exhibition of KAWS’s work to date.
The High Museum of Art will premiere a major multi-site exhibition of work by KAWS opening to the public on February 18, 2012. The exhibition features a 22-foot-high, site-specific mural painted in the Margaretta Taylor Lobby of the High’s Wieland Pavilion and a 24-foot-long triptych hung in the Museum’s Robinson Atrium. In addition, the exhibition will include three new major works including a grid of 27 round paintings, a group of KAWS toys, drawings, and a collaborative project with British Photographer David Sims.
The exhibition will also include KAWS’s monumental sculpture Companion (2010), which was installed on November 18, 2011 on the Museum’s piazza, in advance of the main exhibition opening in February.
KAWS: DOWN TIME has been organized exclusively for the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, by the High’s Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Michael Rooks. The exhibition will coincide with a public program featuring KAWS and Michael Rooks in conversation at the Alliance Theatre. The program starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 16, as part of the High’s Conversations with Contemporary Artists lecture series.
An influential member of a new generation of street artists who have successfully united commercial enterprises with their artistic practices, KAWS employs his skill and delight as a designer of toys and other objects in his practice as a painter and sculptor. The objects he produces for commercial consumption are in direct dialogue with his art; in fact, he thinks of his t-shirt designs as “drawings.” His new paintings in this exhibition allude to pop culture sources such as Sponge Bob Square Pants, as well as the more obscure work of artist H. C. Westermann, who also drew upon popular cartoon imagery in his work.
Companion, which will be installed on the Museum’s Sifly Piazza beginning November 19, represents one of several hybrid figures created by KAWS who are part of a growing cast of characters. Enlarged to a monumental scale, Companion fuses a Mickey Mouse-inspired body with an inflated skull-and-crossbones head, an image that has become emblematic of KAWS. The sculpture’s contemplative pose recalls Rodin’s famed The Thinker, provoking us to wonder what is on the character’s mind and inviting us to empathize with its tragicomic posture.
Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, emerged as a street artist in the early 1990s, painting his moniker on walls and billboards in and around Jersey City and New York City. In the mid-1990s he began modifying advertisements in bus shelters and on phone booths with paintings of his emblematic skull-and-crossbones motif. He continued to develop this image for the next few years, conducting guerilla interventions on advertisements in bus shelters and phone booths not only in New York City, but also Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo.
This work led to direct collaborations with the commercial photographers and designers who produced the original ads and has been featured in numerous publications. It was exhibited most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, as part of the groundbreaking exhibition Art In The Streets. KAWS studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn. His work has been exhibited internationally in Japan, France, Spain and The Netherlands. KAWS is represented by Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, and Galerie Perrotin, Paris.
KAWS was interviewed by Kathryn Branch for the New York Times Magazine blog.
Click here to read the interview >>