To kick things off we’re looking at KAWS who currently is exhibiting in our neck of the woods at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just outside Leeds, running from 06.02.16 till 12.06.16.
His real name is Brian Donnelly he was born in the shadow of the home of street art over in Jersey City, New Jersey. In the early 90’s he started bombing trains, walls and billboards, perfecting his skills mixing with other graffiti skate kids in New York where the KAWS tag was perfected.
FYI KAWS means nothing and was just a collection of letters Brian liked writing, in his own words “It’s just letters that I liked—K-A-W-S. I felt like they always work and function nicely with each other.”
In the mid 90’s he started unscrewing/unlocking the glass panels in bus stops advertising boxes and painting with acrylic directly on to the adverts adding his trade make graphics. KAWS brushstrokes are so smooth that it wasn’t always apparent that the ads had been tampered with. While hitting the streets artistically working at Jumbo Pictures (now owned by Disney) which is where he picked up his signature use of acrylic paint. While there he personally worked on the illustrations for 101 Dalmations (1996).
Jumping forward in 1999 KAWS made his first vinyl figure with Bounty Hunter a Japanese toy company. Companion as he is known is based on Mickey Mouse and used the KAWS signature bone head and crossed eye.
Companion went on to become the most recognisable KAWS piece and the artist’s personal favourite. Soon after he met Nigo who some of you may know as the founder of BAPE and from here on in he found himself producing commissions for Pharrell Williams, working on Kanye West album covers, re-designing the MTV VMA Moonman award and collaborations with Supreme, Nike, Marc Jacobs and Comme Des Garçons just to name a few.
KAWS’ acrylic paintings and sculpture have many repeating images, all meant to be universally understood, surpassing languages and cultures, making it true popular art.
These are just some of the reasons why we find him so interesting in the office with his use of familiar characters such as the Simpsons, Spongebob, Mickey Mouse, The Smurfs, Felix The Cat and the Michelin Man. Using lots of the colour palettes we love and use here in the studio, the vibrancy and contrast he keeps true throughout his work mirrors our house style here hence why we’re waxing about him here on our blog. Big up KAWS and very excited about getting out to the sculpture park to get up close and personal with some of you work.