KAWS – Companionship in the Age of Loneliness
Brian Donnelly is KAWS.
The man has been behind the moniker for a quarter of a decade and if you are not familiar with the name, I can guarantee that you would have come across one of his emissions in some sort or form somewhere as he and his art are omnipresent and have very much become an integral part of modern day popular culture.
Having collected some of his collaborations with Pushead and his toys released in Japan, I was intrigued when I learned about the National Gallery of Victoria, ever on the forefront of pushing the envelope in their endeavours to exhibit world class works in the Southern hemisphere, staging KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness.
With more than one hundred exhibits, the wide range of paintings, prints, alterations of existing artwork, sculptures and artworks that enter the realm of the abstract are on displayed, centred around his iconic figures, which incarnate on massive scale – a more than seven metre companion sculpture greets you before you even enter the exhibition.
While I have been familiar with KAWS and appreciated his incarnations in different shapes and forms over the years, it was impression to experience the collection that not only its what KAWS has become known for but also highlights the nuances and facets of his art.
Beneath the playful approach most would associate with KAWS having only experienced his toy like figures – which is not further wondrous as he honed his craft through stints at Disney and other animation studios - the exhibition does a fantastic job offering more for the ones in search for what is lying underneath and informing the man’s approach.
There are subtleties and cracks that allow for fragility and feelings of isolation to shine through – sentiments that are very much signs of the times we live in.
The exhibition and the fantastic accompanying catalogues, which can be ordered from the National Gallery of Victoria, highlights that there is so much more to KAWS than brightly coloured street art, graffiti and the subversion of advertising culture.
KAWS is a multidisciplinary artists that subverts popular culture but also manages to create a sense of belonging and connection, the latter of which can be literally felt through the joy children experience while they are experiencing KAWS: PLAYTIME, which despite being for the underaged is a tactile and sensory experience that very much encompasses the DNA of what is at the core of KAWS’ work.
The comprehensive exhibition catalogue lives up to the masterful curation previous NGV catalogues have become known and appreciated for and features more than two-hundred images, essays and and an elaboration by NGV’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Dr Simon Maidment.