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“I guess my goal has been just to figure out how to get through life making stuff.” – KAWS
Brian Donnelly, known professionally as KAWS, is a celebrated artist and designer known for his signature limited-edition toys, paintings, sculptures and prints using a variety of media.
KAWS was born in Jersey City in 1974 and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA. He became interested in graffiti at an early age, and honed his skills in the early 1990s, graffiti-bombing trains, walls and billboards in Lower Manhattan before moving on to subverting images on billboards, bus stops and phone booths with his characters such as ‘The Companion’, ‘Bendy’ and ‘The Accomplice’. As he gained street accreditation, these graffiti advertisements became increasingly sought after by the public, and he travelled extensively to work in Paris, London, Germany and Japan. He went on to work as a freelance artist for Disney, creating animated backgrounds.
In the late 1990s, KAWS began to design and produce limited-edition vinyl toys which were an immediate hit internationally, particularly in Japan. He has also designed clothing for popular brands such as Vans, Uniqlo, and Nike, as well as Supreme Comme des Garçons and Hennessy to design everything from skateboards to perfume bottles, applying his distinctive signature style. He also contributed to Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’ album cover; redesigned MTV’s ‘Moon Man’ statue for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and provided the inspiration for a balloon displayed in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
There is a clear vein of Pop Culture in KAWS’ art, most noticeably in his cast of cartoonish characters and motifs, including his best-known characters with crossed out eyes. Some characters are his own creation, while others are re-imagined versions of pop characters such as the Michelin Man, The Simpsons and Mickey Mouse.
KAWS has evolved from graffiti and mass-produced commercial items to create unique sculptures, installations and paintings for some of the most prestigious galleries, public institutions and museums in the world. He has had solo exhibitions in the US, the UK and Japan, and his travelling exhibition ‘Beautiful Losers’ toured throughout Europe and the US. Not only is his work hugely popular with art lovers and collectors, it is also highly sought after by art investors.
KAWS lives and works in New Jersey.