KAWS · UPS AND DOWNS


Brooklyn-based artist KAWS (Brian Donnelly), is an artist who exhibits in museums and galleries internationally. KAWS’ art stands within the historical continuum that began with Pop Art, straddling the line between fine art and commerce. From his 17-foot tall sculpture COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH), newly installed on the Nerman Museum’s front lawn, to his recent installations at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, his works are immediately recognizable as he transforms iconic pop culture characters into thought-provoking works of art.

“COMPANION has been a recurring character for me,” says KAWS, “He’s shy, a bit out of place, not proudly posing like a Superman character.” The seated figure hunches slightly and covers his eyes. Atop his shoulders sits an oversized skull and crossbones for a head. There are X’s slashed over the eyes and the recognizably Disneyesque gloves. According to the artist, the pose also recalls Rodin’s celebrated sculpture The Thinker. KAWS states, “I was thinking, if I had to sit there all day and have a million people pass me and stare, I’d be mortified … I kept imagining myself in front of that many people …That would be the worst experience ever. That is where the pose came from.” The posture at once conveys a reluctance to face the world and a withdrawal from what has already been witnessed.

KAWS’ work possesses a sophisticated humor while utilizing a refined graphic language that defines figuration with bold gestures, playful intricacy and highly saturated colors. His art demonstrates a thoughtful interplay with consumer products and collaborations with global brands. In so doing, KAWS introduces his work to an inclusive global market. A 40-foot long balloon of KAWS’ character COMPANION was recently featured in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

KAWS was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York. KAWS’ museum exhibitions include solo shows at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut.