KAWS, ‘Running Chum - Bus Stop’, 2001, Phillips
KAWS, ‘Running Chum - Bus Stop’, 2001, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
The protagonist of the present work, Chum is one of KAWS’ most iconic characters. Based on the Michelin Man, the figure draws on one of the oldest and most recognisable trademarks from the world of advertising. Engaging a visual and cultural framework that speaks directly to a universal audience: ‘Chum incorporates a childlike humor, conveyed through the playful distortion of its human-like character and vibrant colors. Inoffensive and invented creatures like Chum allow the viewers the pleasures of fantasizing and daydreaming, and assert the liberation of the repressed child in all of us’ (Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, ‘KAWS: Seeing You Seeing Yourself’ in Ian Luna & Lauren A. Gould ed., KAWS, New York, 2010, p. 127). Imbued with KAWS’ signature iconography of the skull and the crossed eyes, a constant in the artist’s visual language, the closely cropped, stylised figure is nonetheless still instantly recognisable; yet the artist’s characteristic style has, in itself, since become equally as prominent in its own right. In the same way that the original figures host an intrinsic cultural and visual significance, KAWS' art has become equally as prolific: ‘like the products in the ads he was altering, his bulbous skulls and X’d eyes became familiar to urban audiences and began to glean attention in the realm of mass culture. ‘I wanted to work within the language of the ad, to form a dialogue’ (KAWS, quoted in Andrea Karnes, ‘Pop in the Expanded Field’, in Leslie Murrell & Christopher Howard, ed., KAWS: Where the End Starts’, Texas, 2017, p. 27).

Reinterpreting iconic figures from popular culture is KAWS’ internationally recognised trademark. Traversing the space between fine art and commerce, the Brooklyn based artist appropriates familiar imagery from mass media and transforms them in his distinctively cartoonish style. Infiltrating public spaces, the artist presented other works from the rare and distinct Chum series on bus stops. KAWS’ notorious visual identity adopts the subliminal powers of advertising, assimilating its effective permeation of imagery in the public consciousness. Rooted in his earlier artistic explorations into the visual syntax of street art, inspired by the culture of downtown Manhattan and the mediation of commercialised aesthetics, Running Chum, with its monochrome graphics and boldly abstracted composition, exemplifies KAWS’ iconic style. Inspired by his on-going fascination with graphic design and graffiti, and inherently informed by the works of Pop artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann and Takashi Murukami, KAWS firmly asserts his position within the trajectory of and artistic tradition that toys with the visual vocabulary of popular culture. The accessible multiplicity of KAWS’ oeuvre is prevalent not only in the global contemporary art market, but also in the realm of fashion and commercial industry, and his manipulation of the current pervasiveness of consumerist imagery has established his reputation worldwide.

The present work exemplifies the artist’s belief in the assimilation of fine art and commercialism: ‘For KAWS, a source found in high art does not translate as a more valuable source than one from the mass media’ (Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, ‘KAWS: Seeing You Seeing Yourself’ in Ian Luna & Lauren A. Gould ed., KAWS, New York, 2010, p. 135). The artist’s ground-breaking re-imagination of figures such as Chum, immaculately rendered in his characteristically clean cut, graphic use of line and glossy finish, successfully elevates the imagery of popular culture to the level of high art in the public sphere in a fascinating reciprocal dialogue.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated 'KAWS '02' lower right

Me Collectors Room Berlin/Stiftung Olbricht, ART & TOYS, 26 May - 14 October 2012
Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, At Home I’m A Tourist, 23 March - 16 June 2013

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

About KAWS

“KAWS” is a graffiti artist, illustrator, painter, sculptor, product designer, and toymaker. His cartoonish style—including his best-known characters with X-ed out eyes—has its roots in his early career as a street artist, when he began replacing advertisements with his own, masterful acrylic paintings in the early 1990s. Since, KAWS has embraced the commercialist spirit of Claes Oldenburg and Takashi Murakami, designing everything from Kanye West album covers to Nike sneakers. Avoiding the distinction between products and art objects, KAWS has shown his work increasingly in galleries and museums over the past decade; some of his most famous images are reimagined versions of pop characters like Mickey Mouse and the Michelin Man.

American, b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey, based in Brooklyn, New York