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10 silkscreen prints published in 2015, KAWS’ No Reply series capitalises on what his already-large following had come to expect from the artist. At this point in his career, the artist had developed a global following and the demand for his work was catching like wildfire. Early works like his advertising poster interventions had been embraced by the market and he had added the likes of Kanye West and Pharrell Williams to his extensive roster of well-chosen collaborators. KAWS’ popularity ensured that even the most commercial of his creative ventures were deemed valid artistic endeavours.
Hung as a set together, No Reply is a collection of works that are highly impactful and visually pleasing. Firmly grounded in the fundamentals of KAWS’ artistic practice is the exploration of the human condition and the creation of a unique visual language rooted in street culture, animation and commercial communication. An edition of 100 was published by New York based Pace. Each one is signed, numbered and dated by the artist in pencil.
The works in No Reply are reminiscent of KAWS’ earlier works. The portrait format recalls the boxed advertising posters housed on the sides of bus stops and phone booths which KAWS would surreptitiously gain entry into and paint as his own interventions. These boxes like the gallery or artwork frame represent rarefied exhibition spaces that elevate the contents above the fly papered masses. This early approach introduces the clear sense of vision and narrative that has defined KAWS’ career.
Echoes of Warhol’s Pop Art screen prints are felt in KAWS’ work here, as well as his career in animation, working for Disney and his interest in animation in general. The influences of animations such as The Simpsons and SpongeBob Square Pants are detectable in KAWS’ mastery of line and use of primary colours. The set of prints in No Reply is similar to KAWS’ previous print set, Ups and Downs (another set of 10 prints, issued in an edition of 100), however it has a calmer energy and less aggression in its composition as well as a feminine presence.
Each image in this series appropriates cartoon imagery and could be seen as a glimpse at a larger scene where figurative activity is taking place. KAWS’ trademark crossed eyes are visible in all but one image. Other discernible figurative traits rendered in his animated style, some of which are stereotypically feminine include eyelashes, tongues, noses, lips and a beauty spot. The colours are bright and there is a particular sense of interlocking between the images viewed in the sequence in which they are intended to be hung. Colours and patterns connect across the borders of each image, as do some shapes. Altogether there is a sense of harmony, a created event, though the mystery of each image is open to interpretation and there are hints to a violence and chaos below the surface.
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