Style Hero: KAWS

All Brian Donnelly aka KAWS wants to do is make art he likes. Call that selfish, call it self absorbed, or call it really brave, to not give a shit about what anyone thinks or says… to not give a shit about potential lawsuits from corporations/brands he’s dissing in his acerbic and thought provoking work. What he’s so good at doing is bringing in an intelligent conversation, reworking familiar icons like Mickey Mouse, Michelin Man, The Simpsons and Smurfs into an iconic and modern platform.  He “found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people’s lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics.” Originally a graffiti artist, he realized early on that the line between fine art and mass-produced merchandise could allow his imagery to infiltrate a larger audience. Not unlike Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, he saw through the limits of the fine art world and had no issues with variety, in medium and in marketing. His limited edition vinyl toys were just the beginning of a long list of products which hit instant resonance with his fans. Although he is subversive to his core, KAWS chose to use this commercial route to challenge the consumer, wanting us to question not only sociopolitical issues, but OUR personal place here; our personal responsibility to call out the bullshit. So what’s more rebellious? Having your art underground where not many can experience it, or bringing it on in a massive scale, so more people can start to think and wake up? Ultimately, that’s a personal opinion, but at least he’s brought it into consciousness. Through collaborations with Nigo for A Bathing Ape, Jun “Jonio” Takahashi for Undercover, Comme des Garcons, snowboard projects with Burton, sneakers with Nike and Vans, he is not shy nor intimidated by stepping outside the art box.  And, to top it all off, his “Companion,” a grayscale figure based on Mickey Mouse with his face obscured by both hands, was adapted into a balloon for the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as part of the parade’s “Blue Sky Gallery” feature. You can’t get more commercial that that, but at the same time, how many people saw it and had a chance to ponder?