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Galeria Javier López, Madrid
Madrid, Galeria Javier López, KAWS: Play Your Part, 20 February-11 April 2014
One of the most vibrant and exciting contemporary artists, Brooklyn-based KAWS, makes sharp commentary on pop culture by creating paintings and sculptures inspired by cartoon icons such as Mickey Mouse, Tweety Bird and Astro Boy. KAWS’ practice is rooted both in the tradition of the commercialist aesthetics of Claes Oldenburg and more recently Takashi Murakami, and in his personal fascination with street art and graphic design.
Nyt (2908), 2014, is a painting that portrays one of the characters that inhabit KAWS’ artistic universe. This lot reminds the viewers of the world of graffiti, billboards and advertising posters, with its vibrant colours and visual vocabulary. After graduating, KAWS worked for an animation studio; this work experience profoundly influenced his artistic style and informed his appropriation of world-famous cartoon figures. The current lot is symbolic of KAWS unique artistic world, it portrays a puffy, inflated skull with crossed out 'X' eyes that lend a dark twist to the piece. This sinister aspect is furthermore emphasised by the confusing order of the composition, in which it is difficult to identify the character’s facial details, which appear to have been first disassembled and then casually reassembled. The result is a figure that conveys great attraction yet maintains its emotional distance, rendering the subject matter somehow devoid of human characteristics and instantly cartoon in its exaggerations.
Nyt (2908) demonstrates KAWS’ creativity and striking ability to appropriate iconic characters and turn them at once into his own unique creation and also a stylistic signature. KAWS’ works possess a refined irony and graphic language that reinvigorate figuration with big gestures and playful complexity. By producing fine contemporary art with thoughtful connections with consumer culture and collaborations with global brands, KAWS moves beyond the world of the exclusive art market into a more vast, global and dynamic marketplace.
American • 1974
To understand the work of KAWS is to understand his roots in the skateboard and graffiti crews of New York City. Brian Donnelly chose KAWS as his moniker to tag city streets beginning in the 1990s, and quickly became a celebrated standout in the scene. Having swapped spray paint for explorations in fine art spanning sculpture, painting and collage, KAWS has maintained a fascination with classic cartoons, including Garfield, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons, and reconfigured familiar subjects into a world of fantasy.
Perhaps he is most known for his larger-than-life fiberglass sculptures that supplant the body of Mickey Mouse onto KAWS' own imagined creatures, often with 'x'-ed out eyes or ultra-animated features. However, KAWS also works frequently in neon and vivid paint, adding animation and depth to contemporary paintings filled with approachable imagination. There is mass appeal to KAWS, who exhibits globally and most frequently in Asia, Europe and the United States.
London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm