Released in an edition of 100, KAWS’ Blame Game features closely cropped unknown cartoon characters’ faces. Despite the underlying morbidity of KAWS oeuvre—exemplified by his signature cross-eyes—KAWS’ works are nevertheless charming, as seen in Blame Game, where the characters range from goofy to downright shy.

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Meaning & Analysis

Released in an edition of 100, KAWS’ Blame Game is typical of the artists’ bold, graphic visual style and use of hijacked pop-culture characters Each print in the collection depicts a close-up cropped portion of an unknown cartoon character’s face. The prints are rendered in bright and bold colours and the cartoon characters are drawn using bold, black gestural lines, a signature element of KAWS’ visual language. The collection captures KAWS’ flat graphic style and love of colour.

KAWS is arguably best-known for his incorporation of cartoon characters into his artworks. Since the 1990s, when KAWS was spray-painting the streets of New York, the artist has developed a strong visual language and set of distinctive graphics, which are immediately noticeable in the Blame Game collection. The prints all include KAWS’ iconic crossed out eyes, a trademark feature of the artist’s graphic style. Blame Game showcases KAWS’ creative flair as the collection includes various cartoon characters created by KAWS himself. KAWS has produced a cast of figurative characters and motifs throughout his artistic career, some of which date back to the start of his career in the 1990s. Some of these stock characters include Companion, Chum, Accomplice and Bendy which have now become recognisable icons that are closely associated with the artists’ name. The creation of an array of characters resonates strongly with the work of Keith Haring and his impressive collection of repeated icons and motifs, such as the radiant baby, angel, flying devil and barking dog.

KAWS’ visual style often carries an air of morbidity, as his characters are rendered with skull and crossbone heads and crossed out eyes. Nevertheless, as seen in Blame Game, KAWS’ drawings have a charming air to them, as the characters are drawn so simply and are often depicted in shy and timid poses. It is this charm that gives the characters such wide-reaching appeal. KAWS’ cast of cartoons have brought him international recognition and fame, imbuing the artist with Pop status as a cultural icon of the 21st century who has been successful in bridging the gap between street art and high art.

While Blame Game is based on KAWS’ personal creations, the artist has also appropriated and adapted familiar figures such as Mickey Mouse, the Smurfs, characters from Sesame Street and The Simpsons, always in his characteristic, slightly morbid, visual style.