Have you heard of Kaws? Cover of New York Magazine, posted in Times Square, featured on CBS Sunday Morning, globally collected, subverting american pop-icons KAWS…
Kaws, known originally as Brian Donnelly from Jersey City, New Jersey, began his career as a graffiti artist. He tagged first in Jersey and, upon moving to New York where he would attend art school in the 1990’s, started subverting imagery on advertisements and billboards. As he progressed he focused on certain areas and outlets. He became partial to bus shelters and phone booth advertisements. Kaws said of this “I started getting into bombing on a more serious level, trying to cover larger areas of Jersey and Manhattan, especially Soho.” At first his altered imagery endured, lasting often many months but as the now famous x-ed out eyes of Kaws’ began to gain notoriety the public work became swiftly sought after.
Kaws designed and produced a line of limited edition toys in the late 90’s that became an instant global smash amongst the art toy-collecting community, particularly in Japan where the genre is deeply respected and incredibly popular.
Kaws has collaborated with Original fake, Medicom toy, Nigo for A Bathing Ape, Jun “Jonio” Takahashi for Undercover, Burton snowboards, Nike, Vans, and now Comme des Garçons.
Kaws is now known for re-creating iconic images such as the Smurfs, the Simpsons (titled, the Kimpsons), Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man and recently designed a cover for the Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak album that garnered a lot of buzz.
Through all of his projects, KAWS has successfully blurred the line between fine art and mass-produced merchandise. He uses his products to allow his imagery to infiltrate a larger audience than that of the fine art world. The artist is currently an active member in both the commercial and fine art communities.
Solo exhibitions include OriginalFake at the Bape Gallery in Tokyo (2003) where his sculpture “Wonderful World” sold for $400,000.
KAWS has been periodically showing both paintings and products at Colette in Paris since 1999.
His work is included in the traveling exhibition Beautiful Losers, which started at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center and will be traveling through 2009 throughout the US and Europe.
KAWS has become an important figure in the movement of underground graffiti culture into the mainstream of gallery art.
Leah Spurrier. HighStreet