BY: JC Rodriguez
A pop artist, whose work expands the marriage between street and fine art. He is a painter, toy designer and style collaborator who’s worked with brands like Jordan, Burton, Vans and Supreme. He’s created work for artists like Kanye West and redesigned the iconic MTV Moonman trophy. His name is Brian Donnelly, but you may know him as KAWS.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1974, KAWS began his career as a graffiti artist. He created the moniker KAWS simply because he liked the sound and the way the letters worked with each other. At that time this was important, as his work primarily consisted of stylized tagging. From an early age he was drawn to art. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Bachelors in Fine Arts in illustration in 1996. He worked as an animator for Jumbo Pictures and was the illustrator for the series Doug.
It was his work as a street artist where he began to make waves. In the late 90s he began removing fashion ads from bus stops and adding his signature character “Companion”, a cartoon skull with X’s as eyes, to accompany supermodels like Kate Moss. The fashion world loved it and embraced KAWS. So much so that Colette, the high fashion retailer in Paris, ask him to create paintings and products for their store. This lead to worldwide recognition and the rest was history.
His art uses highly recognizable silhouettes of universally known cartoon characters like Mickey and Snoopy. His body of work transcends language and culture, bringing about work that simply can’t be unrelatable. KAWS works with many forms and mediums including acrylic paint on canvas, silkscreen printing and sculptures from a few inches to 30 feet tall. His work has been embraced by the art world and is even displayed at the most prestigious art venues in the world. A highly sought after artist not only by art collectors by fashion enthusiasts. You’d be hard pressed to find the Air Jordan 4 he created for less than $2,000, ten times its original retail price.
KAWS continues to expand his work, making it larger in scale and considering moving on to other mediums. His influence in the connection of street and fine art, and his contributions to pop culture will continue to place KAWS in the higher echelons of the art world. His work brings about feelings from characters that we can’t help but feel a connection to. What more can we ask for from an artist.
"It's strange with graffiti. You put a lot out, but you don't get that much back, because not many people know who's doing it."