You might remember back in December we reported KAWS’ sculptures would be heading to the Yorkshire Hills. Now, they have arrived and with just over a week to go until KAWS: The Artist in Conversation opens, they’re hard to miss. Giant wooden sculptures of distorted, morphed and often a little dissolute, Disney-esque characters loom almost as high as the trees in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park they are now occupying.
KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, is now famous, primarily, as a street artist. While studying illustration at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan he rose to fame on the streets of New York as a graffiti artist, manipulating and subverting advertising billboards – which is where the cartoonish style for his sculptures emerged. This is a style that has lead to KAWS collaborating on clothing for the Nike and DC Shoes, commissions from magazines including i-D and The New Yorker, and even a fragrance bottle with Pharrell Williams.
Though, Donnelly rejects the title of street artist, and feels more that art shouldn’t have a label or a pigeonhole, it should just be appreciate as art. So, as far as he is concerned; why should it be surprising to see his sculptures in the natural settings of a Yorkshire sculpture park? “The thought of someone coming out here and seeing this as street art is just, well, sad,” he told Wallpaper. This notion of ‘high art’ and ‘street art’ has also been mocked by Banksy.
There are six of his monolithic wooden sculptures outside – one for each kind of melancholy: there’s one shameful, there’s two depressed friends supporting each other, one’s pulling off his nose – all have their trademark cross-eyes, and all of them will dwarf you.
If it starts to rain, inside the gallery next to the park there is an exhibition of some of his other work: plastic sculptures of fluorescent Michelin men, anatomical sculptures of characters he’s created and canvases of cartoon-ish characters in bright, graphic and psychedelic settings – where the inspiration of Keith Haring and Claes Oldenburg, two men whom he admired while studying fine art, are inherently visible in his work.
There are also some great behind the scenes images on his Instagram, here.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the UK’s first open-air gallery and was the winner of the ‘Art Fund Museum of the Year’ in 2014. The exhibition is scheduled to run from 16 February- 12 June 2016.