KAWS aka Brian Donnelly is taking the art world by storm. Humorous and satirical, his stock of cartoon-like characters with iconic branded X eyes have earned him fame and Pop status. With cuteish charm, his wry figures have moved from street art to high art and bridged art and design, creating a sensation and buzz akin to the early days of Banksy. Working with sculpture, painting, murals, drawing, product design and clothing, his approach has been likened to that of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

KAWS began his career studying illustration at the School of Visual Arts, New York after which he worked as a background painter for animation series. His work on Disney’s 101 Dalmations and Doug, developed his cartoon-like aesthetic which was honed in his unique graffiti work. From a young age, Donnelly’s tag ‘KAWS’ was known, appearing on buildings and trains around New Jersey and Manhattan throughout the 1990s. Chosen for its visual balance, he has explained that, “When your whole art is based on the lettering you choose, you kinda figure out what ones work together. I just liked the shapes of the k, a, w, s,”.

The tag later gave way to his witty characters such as Bendy and The Accomplice, which infiltrated New Yorks bus-stops and phone booth advertisements. He was unabashed in his process, unlocking the cases of adverts, removing the poster campaign and taking it home where he would paint his modification and then place them back in situ. Known as ‘Subvertising’, one of the intentions was to mock the corporations and play with their goods. Wrapping his figures around products and changing the faces of models to his signature skull and crossbone image, he surreptitiously and anonymously inserted his critique for New Yorkers to encounter on a daily basis.

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