KAWS: “I never thought I could enter a gallery. I looked at them as these pretentious places that did not welcome me.”
Over the course of a career that has variously infuriated anti-graffiti task force officers and enthralled Japanese street couture collectors — meaning winning props from hip-hop superstars Kanye West and Pharrell Williams — the pop artist KAWS has carved a unique niche for himself. The soft-spoken 34-year-old Jersey City native, born Brian Donnelly, created a new business model that bridges the high-low culture divide in ways that would have made steam come out of Andy Warhol’s ears.
By parlaying vandalism into a brand identity as a purveyor of mass-produced collectible toys, KAWS became a bona fide subculture celebrity with a recognizable presence in street fashion.
But now, KAWS is at a career turning point. In spite of his renown in subcultural circles (which galleristas and museum directors have historically snobbed), he is now being mentioned in the same breath as pop art luminaries, such as Takashi Murakami, Keith Haring and Jeff Koons. And while KAWS has proven himself perfectly capable of trafficking his own pop offerings — on skateboard decks, stickers, T-shirts and sneakers — KAWS has infiltrated the rarefied world of institutional art after being held at arm’s distance from it for much of his career. Pretty fly for a graf guy.
Read the full article on the Los Angeles Times.