Made in 2015, this striking screen print by celebrated street artist KAWS is an homage to Pop Art, Cubism and cartoon counterculture all at once. With its bold mix of bright colours, and alarmingly close-cropped composition the work is by turns unsettling and captivating. The viewer is drawn to meet the eye of a mangled cartoon character, rendered unrecognisable by the mash up of nose, teeth and tongue that gives the impression of a figure squashed up against a pane of glass were it not for the pastoral details that frame the scene. The focus of the piece however is undoubtedly the red crossed out eye that looks directly at us, its bold blue X forming a kind of bullseye target for our attention.
This crossed out eye makes the work instantly recognisable as one of KAWS’. Since the late 90s, when he first made his name on the street by painting an uncanny cast of characters over advertisement panels in New York, KAWS has been creating figures that aim to disconcert the viewer with their uncanny mix of familiarity and creepiness. Here we can see the ghost of the artist’s most well known motif, the Companion character who started life as a limited edition vinyl toy which sold out almost immediately when it was released through Japanese cult brand Bounty Hunter in 1999. Since then Companion has appeared as numerous other editions of the vinyl toy, as well as a blimp in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a sell out Uniqlo t shirt, a giant inflatable floating in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour and a monumental sculpture in Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Originally depicted as a figure with a skull and crossbones head wearing Mickey Mouse shorts and gloves, the figure is arguably responsible for making the XX eyes a KAWS trademark.
With You Should Know I Know and many of his other screen prints KAWS appears to be further developing his early fascination with cartoons and the possibilities for accessibility when making art. His original ‘subvertisements’ and other graffiti interventions aimed to bring art to the everyman, to reach kids and collectors alike. And while his paintings now sell for six figures at auction, his prints show he is still in touch with the countercultures that first inspired him.