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KAWS, ‘Untitled’, 2014, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
Working as a background painter for the animated series Doug and collaborating with downtown New York as a street artist, KAWS has created a whole world of characters and imagery. In the early 1990s, KAWS started tagging billboards and bus shelters, injecting his own cast of animated caricatures onto already existing advertisements, for example, by adding puffy skulls with X-ed out eyes to the likes of Kate Moss in a Supreme Ad and Christy Turlington in a Calvin Klein Ad. He slowly began shifting away from tagging photographic, public Ads and initiated the formation of his own characters “Accomplice”, “Chum” and “Companion” in addition to his own take on classic characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, Snoopy, Michelin Man, Mickey Mouse and his own version of The Simpsons, titled The Kimpsons.
The present lot presents Snoopy, an American Beagle and companion to Charlie Brown in the comic strip Peanuts created by Charles Schulz. However, KAWS’ Snoopy has been playfully renamed by the artist, now known as “Joe KAWS.” From 1950 until his death in 2005, Schulz’s beloved characters appeared in international and national newspapers every day, deeply rooting themselves in generations of globally diverse viewers. KAWS explains, “I’m into Schulz as an artist, a company, and an icon; I got into his stuff just because I liked the looseness of the line work, and I thought that it was just sort of a nice thing to bring into my paintings, even if it’s abstract and unidentifiable” (KAWS in Steff Yotka, “Inside KAWS’s Studio With the Artist—And His Snoopy for Uniqlo Toys,” Vogue, April 27, 2017).

Untitled, showing just the top of the dog’s head with KAWS’ signature X-ed out eyes, comes from a 2014 series of works entitled “Man’s Best Friend.” By extracting minimalist, detailed crops of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Pig-Pen and Snoopy, KAWS has left just a hint of the persona being portrayed, yet even with just a dissociated portion the viewer is able to immediately recognize these childhood friends. As the artist comments, “[I] found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics” (KAWS in Healy & Murray, "Graffiti Artist Turned Gallery Artist Turned Art Toy Maker, KAWS," Pop, February 2007, pp. 260-265). KAWS’ simplistic yet bold paintings and sculptures playfully and inventively rework quintessential cartoon imagery while touching on the viewer’s childhood relationship to this ensemble of friendly faces.
Courtesy of Phillips

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

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