Thursday, March 11, 2021

KAWS: WHAT PARTY @ Brooklyn Museum

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WHAT PARTY; painted bronze statue at the entry of KAWS WHAT PARTY exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum #KAWSBKM

On March 11, 2020, I indulged my inner diva at the press preview of Studio 54 Night Magic at the Brooklyn Museum--a day before NYC shut down. As a first "re-emergence," I figured it would be fitting to re-energize the blog--exactly one year later--with a look at KAWS: WHAT PARTY (new exhibit in the same space). As a new mom, these last 12 months has been a whirlwind of emotion; walking through the KAWS press preview on February 24th, I saw the personification of many of those emotions via KAWs' signature Chum, BFF and Companion. Keep reading for a look inside... 

KAWS early works

Curator Eugenie Tsai's tight edit of KAWS' premiere retrospective spans 167 items and five sections-- from Brian Donnelly's (a.k.a KAWS) beginnings as a tagger, to his alteration and abstraction of familiar characters (e.g. "Kimpsons" and "Kurfs"), to recent introspective work, to collaborations with brands and Fashion designers, and finally, an immersive installation of Companion figures and video. KAWS: WHAT PARTY provides a glimpse into the making of a distinguishable brand, showcasing rare sketches and photos of a 90s-era graffiti artist who slowly evolved a namesake style.

KAWS Untitled (Haring) (1997)

As a teen who adopted the letters 'K A W S' purely because he liked the aesthetic, no-one forecasted the fame and popularity that followed. Now fetching thousands to millions per piece, the sullen and recognizable creatures of KAWS have built him a fan base of global admiration. Heavy emotion--grief, isolation, loneliness, anxiety--are preserved and served in large cartoon renditions that appeal to their audience. 

Personal Sketches

Walking through the exhibit, you get a sense of the artist as opportunist, EMO and collaborator. The X'd out eyes of KAWS' characters signal sadness, while the cartoonish persona and bold colors balance out sullen expressions. All in all, an interesting display of the growth, reach and range of KAWS as his aesthetic becomes increasingly impossible for the elitist art world to ignore. Beyond the art industry's "profit margins" and inherent struggle between creativity vs commercialism, this show is for the fans. KAWS: WHAT PARTY is up until September 5th. 

Snoopy by KAWS

Larger-than-life [L] Companion Open Edition + [R] Open Edition Flayed Companion in Brown

Companion: Resting Place

KAWS Gone 


KAWS Separated (2019) in front of Urge -- series of paintings created as a nod to the pandemic

Born to Bend (Bendy and Gumby)

Installation View

[L] The News (2017) // [R] predatory drawings (2017)

Better Knowing (2013)

Installation view

Original Fake drawing

KAWS BFF and KAWS Take Companion

Installation view of licensed partnerships

KAWS x Campana sofa made with BFF stuffed toys

Exhibit entryway with sketche wall

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