Bugs Bunny in the Round: KAWS' Playful Approach

Feb 28, 2018 5:27PM

At once referencing table-top toys and ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, KAWS' monumental 'Accomplice' fuses childhood whimsy with a melancholic twist.

KAWS Accomplice, 2010 as seen at Phillips Berkeley Square, now on view

Brooklyn-based artist KAWS re-appropriates bits of popular culture and transforms them into eye-catching iconic sculptures and paintings. His cartoon characters, recognizable to the media-savvy public, undergo a sardonic set of alterations.

Beginning his career in New York, he initiated his 'forced collaborations' by marking up fashion advertisements found in New York City phone booths, adding his own signature motifs to already existing photographic imagery and eventually expanding his practice to paintings and sculptures of varying sizes.

KAWS FINAL DAYS, 2013. Galerie Perrotin, Frieze Sculpture 2017. Photo by Stephen White, Courtesy of Stephen White/Frieze

The upcoming lot from our 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale in London, Accomplice from 2010, stands at a towering height in a childlike pink hue and is skillfully accented with KAWS' iconic white gloves and signature 'X' eyes. Drawing reference to a pink Bugs Bunny, he also adorned the figure with a white bib, bow and cotton ball tail. Though visually charming and simplistic, the process behind fabricating Accomplice is in fact quite complex, as he must translate his vision in the round, working in 3D modeling software. Beginning with table top toys, KAWS explains that to him, toys were a way to enter into sculpture practice and, as he commented forT Magazine in June 2011, "the only way I could see my work three-dimensionally."

Blown up to life-size scale, the present lot playfully draws upon a connection to the art historical tradition of figurative sculpture, beginning with Egyptian sarcophagi. The resulting sculpture is an adult-sized toy, injecting humor into more mature notions of life and death as signified by the ancient symbols it recalls. The sculptural characters KAWS creates fuse childhood whimsy with a melancholic twist, as in the present lot, a beloved childhood cartoon suspiciously titled Accomplice.

Explore Phillips: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on Artsy, and place max bids on more than 170 artworks. Live bidding opens Friday, March 9th, at 2:00pm GMT (9:00am ET).