Updated: Mar 15
Located at: Skarsted Gallery
Of all the vibrant artist I like to familiarize myself with, one that I surely mistakenly overlooked was KAWS, seeing him before as an urban street artist who plays off familiar cartoons. I somewhat remember when he released his brand “Original Fake” (2006-2013), had a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012 I think?), designed the 2013 MTV Awards Moonman (which brought his previous works full circle to me) collaborated with Kanye on one of his best albums’ cover art for “808’s & Heartbreak” & had some art showcased at last year's Miami Art Basel that we got to see but that was as far as my knowledge went on the artist. It wasn’t until Angelo unraveled to me what made one of his favorite artist so elite, that I also did some digging of my own & Angelo having watched KAWS’ growth over these last solid years was ideal in helping me break this knowledge down so let me spit some of it back to you..
Previously working at Disney as a Freelance Animator, he was able to continue to hone his skills working on various films & cartoon projects. After moving to New York in the 90’s, his career as a graffiti artist blossomed as he left his mark on phone booths, bus stops, billboards and plenty of more places in the city, which rapidly caught the attention of not only New York, but the World. Late 90’s, KAWS was able to design his first line of vinyl toys that were a big hit in Japan & the rest was history. Working with company brands like A Bathing Ape, Nike, Comme De Garçons, and Supreme to name a few, was just another staple in his colorful career. KAWS is most known for his advertisement work with reworking familiar household cartoons such as The Simpsons, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, & Spongebob Squarepants to name a few. He highlighted these characters as they have had such an impact on us and in history. These reworked icons have truly become a new one of a kind characters once again with KAWS’ artistic imagination in play.
To spotlight his works on toys & figurines a bit, he worked alongside Medicom on the brand OriginalFake to produce these figures as well as some clothing in the later years before discontinuing in 2013. Angelo, as well as many others collect these statues in various sizes that depict a reworked Mickey in different positions, numerous characters like Pinocchio, Astro Boy, Boba Fett, Smurfs, to name a few, (the list goes on) and color ways of his most popular figure that also comes in a few half body/half insides model too which I think is the most sickest and coolest one. They have such a high demand aside from being so rare, they are only available for a short time as they are made in a limited capacity & seeing his trademark skullhead with XX eyes throughout his art in a physical/tangible form drives art lovers & collectors crazy.
His XX eyes can be seen as a main element in most of his works spanning over a decade; from advertisements, paintings, stitched on clothing, life sized figures and so much more which now brings me to his newest exhibition where KAWS’ art continues to live on at the Skarstedt Gallery for only a few more weeks titled: KAWS - “GONE”. // Angelo & I had an amazing time viewing this exhibition as we were there for its opening weekend! It was so much fun to be won over & refreshed by KAWS’ impeccable color choices in his works & get to stand side by side some life sized Companions. Knowing that KAWS revolved the theme of this exhibit to the feeling of loss, I tried be aware of this while viewing these never before seen paintings and his well crafted statues. The larger scale Companion & BFF Sculptures made of bronze brought familiarity to viewers but also invites a thought to contemplate based off the sculptures’ disposition & body language. As you enter you see one of the main attractions, “GONE” where a Companion is in hero mode holding, what seemed to me as, a distressed/exhausted BFF sculpture in his arms symbolizing to me a lost in a battle. Their body language hint on those found in some Renaissance art with a bit of a savior complex but I digress..
My favorite of the sculptures would have to be KAWS’ CHUM titled WHAT PARTY with his head hung low isolated in his own space of the exhibit, he stops you in your tracks as your mind begins to try to comprehend why he’s in such a stance. Still, alone, a force you cannot ignore deserving of a moment of acknowledgement from you. How powerful!
Last but not least I can’t forget to applaud KAWS on his exceptional use of color to grab you from more than one direction. Touching in both 2D & 3D in flat out paintwork jumps off the canvases as your eyes gaze and follow around each abstract shape spilling into hidden faces & X eyes and other colors. With pops of neon yellow, forest green, shades of teal all around, and my favorite found on GETTING THE CALL, the inverted blue & red combo that contrasts my eyes in real time then awakens me with this solid mint green color to flash its existence. Before this exhibit I rarely saw perspective shadows created & placed in artworks with such a cartoonish fashion, they animate these pieces incredibly! So much collage'd imagery through layers of color schemes make each piece multiply into additional works of art. KAWS, kudos and congrats to you on yet another successful showcase. Can’t wait for what else you have in store!
Thanks again to Angelo for highlighting this artist to me, I see how he can be one of your favorites; the way he compliments street style with a global image you 2 are a total aesthetic match. Can’t wait till the next exhibit!
Below, check out more works of art created by KAWS & get familiar! Xoxo, LSB