The KAWS retrospective opens in New York

A retrospective of the renowned US street artist KAWS with his typical skull figures opened in New York on Friday.

The artist’s unique creations have been shown around the world, but the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum marks the first major retrospective in his 25-year career.

“KAWS: What Party” traces the artistic journey of Brian Donnelly, a former graffiti artist who became a painter and sculptor.

The exhibition, which runs until September 5, features his antihero Companion and Chum, whose faces are inspired by skulls on pirate flags.

The companion’s body is reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, while Chum has been compared to the Michelin man.

“KAWS work speaks to universal emotions such as loneliness, melancholy and camaraderie,” said Joan Robledo-Palop, whose New York gallery Zeit Contemporary Art has sold nearly 100 Donnelly works.

Donnelly, who turned 46 on Friday and didn’t return AFP requests for comment, has revealed very little about his thought processes during his career.

For the curator of the exhibition, Eugenie Tsai, the characters from KAWS are light-hearted, but also melancholy and introspective.

They “resonate with all of us in life in general,” she said. “Not everything is fun.”

Despite initial criticism in the art world that his work was superficial, KAWS quickly found audiences, including celebrities, before conquering the general public.

KAWS first won in Asia, particularly Japan, before gaining prominence in the west, where music producer Pharrell Williams and rapper Jay-Z acquired his work.

Tsai sees hallmarks of the late New York pop artist Keith Haring in KAWS ‘paintings in the fact that they are made available to both young people and older collectors.

In April 2019, “The Kaws Album,” which put characters from “The Simpsons” on the cover of Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” Lonely Hearts Club Band, “sold in Hong Kong for $ 14.7 million.

The story goes on

The sale broke the record for a Donnelly plant, but it’s also influential at the lower end of the market.

In 2019, KAWS – who previously used graffiti trains in Jersey City – partnered with Japanese ready-to-wear brand Uniqlo for a mini-collection, with some items selling for less than $ 20.

“I think KAWS ties in with pop art and the idea that art can be a business venture,” said Robledo-Palop.

“We owe Andy Warhol the blurring of the lines between what is a commodity and what is a work of art.

“KAWS perfected the Warholian project and brought it to a new level in the 21st century.

In recent years Donnelly has ventured into abstract painting by using bright colors and deconstructing elements of his favorite characters to such an extent that they are no longer recognizable.

“The purpose of a mid-career museum survey is to reevaluate an artist’s work,” said Robledo-Palop.

“The exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is a great opportunity to discover the artist’s coherence and talent,” he added.

tu / pdh / ec

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