The 6th of February saw the start of the four month long, first UK museum exhibition of work by the renowned American artist KAWS. What better place for it to be than at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
KAWS was born Brian Donnelly in Jersey City, New Jersey. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration in 1996. After graduation, KAWS briefly worked for Disney as a freelance animator painting backgrounds.
He began his career as a graffiti artist growing up in Jersey City. After moving to New York City in the 1990s, KAWS started subverting imagery on billboards, bus shelters and phone booth advertisements. These reworked ads were at first left alone, lasting for up to several months, but as KAWS’ popularity skyrocketed, the ads became increasingly sought after.
In 1999 KAWS began to design and produce his first limited-edition vinyl toy with the Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter, which was an instant hit with the global art-toy collecting community. He has collaborated with other Japanese companies like A Bathing Ape, Santastic, and Medicom on further toys.
The open air exhibition is located in the Lower Park, an expansive area that is rarely used due to very few artworks capable with its scale. Along with this being the first time KAWS has ever exhibited in the UK this is the first time they have been collected in a group a intense or in a landscape quite like this.
Upon walking down these colossal figures capture you in awe. The six figures vary in height from four to ten metres high, crafted from Afromosia wood, exceptionally suitable for the open air. Each figure hints at familiar characters such as Pinocchino, Mickey Mouse and the Smurfs. All bearing the trademark KAWS skull and cross bones head with crosses on the hands and eyes.
The Exhibition continues inside the Longside Gallery and the first thing you notice is the variety of colours. Five new paintings "Survival Machine" are shown here for the first time. They create a brilliant, vibrant, energetic palate of colour across the gallery walls.
Companion was the first KAWS character to be created in the form of a limited edition toy in 1999. Around the rooms the Companions are seen in different poses and two are cut in half revealing brightly coloured guts and inners.
The exhibition as a whole is a must see and is an exciting, intelligent, contemporary response to the world we live in and the imagery that surrounds us.