KAWS, ‘Untitled’, 2014, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
“I do start with familiar things, and that’s primarily to make the work more approachable for people – it’s an entry point."

The present two lots exemplify New York-based artist KAWS’s continuously vibrant incorporations of diverse commercial and artistic references in pursuit of portraying relatable emotion. Inspired by animation DVDs in the early part of his career, KAWS would watch cartoons and pause them periodically to take close-up screenshots of characters, their caricatures on visceral display. These two paintings, executed in 2014, epitomize the artist’s complex creative process that then followed. Combining a range of visual elements drawn from characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, the Smurfs, and a doughy Michelin Man, KAWS reworks recognizable imagery to fit his own abstract depictions of tangible expressions like excitement and surprise. At once theatrical and minimal, KAWS’s vivid colors in the present lots are enclosed in geometrically graphic curves and straight lines, adding power to enlarged realizations of human emotion. In lot 320, rendered with sensational chromatic breadth, a soft hand gently touches the artist’s signature “X” eye, whereas in the more closely cropped lot 321, a striking red tongue bends over a deep brown mouth as if in dramatic motion. With symbolic weight, KAWS pieces together these real, physical attributes to animate newly crafted personalities. In a 2016 interview, KAWS explained the drive behind this process: “I do start with familiar things, and that’s primarily to make the work more approachable for people – it’s an entry point” (KAWS, quoted in Leslie Murrell and Christopher Howard, eds., Where the End Starts: KAWS, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, 2017, p. 80).
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated "KAWS..14" on the reverse

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