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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser, Los Angeles
    Private Collection (acquired from the above)
    Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 2016, lot 434
    Private Collection, New York
    Private Collection, Manchester

  • Catalogue Essay

    PRESSURE PARADE, with its block, artificial colours, bold use of line, stylisation and cropping of the composition to the point of abstraction, typifies KAWS’ acclaimed artistic practice. Rendered in acrylic on canvas and painted in 2011, the precisely delineated work stretches nearly two metres square, possessing a uniformity of colour and contrast that suggests technological creation. Bridging the gap between fine art and mass media imagery, the works of Brian Donnelly – better known by his alias KAWS – belong to a distinctive oeuvre that has come to be recognised all over the world. With roots in the street art of downtown Manhattan, KAWS’ sculptures and paintings have become synonymous with the world of high fashion, graphics and product design. Like the work of his Pop artist predecessors, the accessibility of KAWS’ work has established an international reputation for the artist, whose characteristically bright, graphic compositions have infiltrated the public consciousness, coming to be associated with celebrities from the likes of Kanye West to Pharrell Williams, as well as industry giants such as Nike.

    KAWS’ Pop Art influences have provided the Brooklyn-based artist with a new platform to present his works. Assuming the language of mass communication and exploiting the connection of artistic and commercial spheres, KAWS has relied on his own unique symbolism to transform the depiction of recognisable caricatures. Inspired by animation DVDs in the early part of his career, KAWS would watch cartoons, pausing them periodically to take close-up screenshots of characters. In the present work, KAWS’ imagery is derived from the American-Belgian television series The Smurfs. An abstracted blue smurf figure is surrounded by exploding white graphics in a way that is not immediately recognisable as a scene from the cartoon, but recalls the energetic animation of its source imagery. Belonging to a series of paintings coined by the artist as kurfs, this work typifies KAWS’ trademark style in which he re-contextualises commercially cherished characters. Similar to Roy Lichtenstein’s re-appropriation of female comic book characters in his series of Girl paintings created half a century earlier, KAWS takes the graphic of a smurf and elevates it to the status of fine art by rendering it in vibrant acrylic on canvas. The result is an image which establishes a connection to the viewer by appealing to the universal effects of pop culture, and the saturation of mass media imagery on contemporary society, themes perhaps even more relevant in today’s world than in post-war America. In his reduction of the smurf to simply colour and line, KAWS defines his own visual iconography, similar to Keith Haring’s block human figures, an artist who, like KAWS, was influenced by the art of Manhattan’s streets.

    Influenced by the breadth of the Pop Art universe from New York-based artists like Haring and Lichtenstein to Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami, KAWS’ trademark style has garnered him global acclaim and recognition in much the same way that these artists have elevated pop culture source imagery to re-appropriation in fine art forms. As Mónica Ramírez-Montagut aptly described of the artist’s subject matter, ‘For KAWS, a source found in high art does not translate as a more valuable source than one from mass media’ (Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, ‘KAWS: Seeing You Seeing Yourself’ in Ian Luna and Lauren A. Gould, ed., KAWS, New York, 2010, p. 135). In a society increasingly governed by the prevalence of the mass media, KAWS is now at the forefront of an artistic trajectory that aims to redefine these sources and boundaries.

  • Artist Biography


    American • 1974

    KAWS (b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) is renowned for his prolific body of work that straddles the worlds of art and design to include paintings, murals, graphic and product design, street art, and large-scale sculptures. Over the last two decades KAWS has built a successful career with work that consistently shows his formal agility as an artist, as well as his underlying wit, irreverence, and affection for our times. His refined graphic language revitalizes figuration with both big, bold gestures and playful intricacies.  

    KAWS often appropriates and draws inspiration from pop culture animations, forming a unique artistic vocabulary across mediums. Admired for his larger-than-life sculptures and hardedge paintings that emphasize line and color, KAWS’s cast of hybrid cartoon characters are the strongest examples of his exploration of humanity. As seen in his collaborations with global brands, the artist’s imagery possesses a sophisticated humor and reveals a thoughtful interplay with consumer products. With their broad appeal, KAWS’s artworks are highly sought-after by collectors inside and outside of the art world, establishing him as a uniquely prominent artist and influence in today’s culture.  

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signed and dated 'KAWS '11' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
183.3 x 183.1 cm (72 1/8 x 72 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2011.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £321,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018