Blame Game KAWS
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Produced in 2014 in an edition size of 100, Blame Game is a collection of 10 signed screen prints by the prolific American artist and designer, KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly. 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.
KAWS’ experimentation with colour and screen printing in the Blame Game collection is reminiscent of the work of Andy Warhol and the father of Pop Art clearly influenced KAWS and his approach to art. Warhol often took inspiration from popular culture and transformed everyday objects such as shoes and Campbell’s soup cans into works of fine art. This is apparent in KAWS’ work and his fascination with popular animations and cartoon characters.
KAWS’ graphic style can be traced back to his teenage years, when he was known as Brian Donnelly. Donnelly created the tag KAWS while he was still at school and used to spray paint it on buildings in New Jersey, where he grew up. Donnelly went on to develop his artistic talents at the School of Visual Arts in New York where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration in 1996. After graduating, he worked as a freelance animator in New York for Jumbo Pictures, where he worked on various animation series such as 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug.
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