MALAGA.- The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga
is presenting the first solo exhibition in a Spanish museum of KAWS, entitled FINAL DAYS. Curated by Fernando Francés, it includes five large-scale, carved wooden sculptures of his celebrated COMPANION, among other figures. In their numerous different versions, they represent the work for which KAWS, who is also a forerunner of the Art & Toys movement, is internationally known. The artist transforms icons of popular culture, adding elements characteristic of his style, such as xs instead of eyes. KAWS is a painter, sculptor and designer who works with leading international firms and brands. He studied Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and now lives and works in Brooklyn.
In the words of KAWS (born New Jersey, USA, 1974): Its amusing to think that when I work on a large-format piece in bronze or wood its termed sculpture but if I do the same piece in plastic on a small scale its called a toy. The CAC Málaga is now presenting FINAL DAYS, an exhibition comprising five large-format sculptures in wood of his celebrated COMPANION, which are among his best known figures, alongside others that recall animated cartoon characters and which involve elements characteristic of his style, such as xs instead of eyes, white gloves and crossbones on the heads.
For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga: This US artist is capable of creating a particular edgy mood, moving in areas of the subconscious like a fish in water. This is not by chance, nor is it something intentional, but it may be the aim of Art & Toys aside from collecting. Since the 1990s when this movement started to gain importance in Japan, a gap opened up that enabled other visual art forms to express themselves. Artists who had never previously entered the door of a gallery or museum and who presented their works to the widest possible public, suddenly began to exhibit inside galleries. And the most striking thing has been that this faithful public, which has always followed these artists, also entered those doors. To put it more simply, it could be said that art became democratic.
KAWSs work falls within a universally known type of iconography. These images represent creatures with bodies of characters from the Simpsons, Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse or the Michelin man but have skulls for heads, with bones that imitate the hair and ears and xs instead of eyes. They reveal the artists unmistakable identity but are at the same time perfectly recognisable, mainly deriving from cartoons. Another characteristic which attracts the viewers attention is that the figures are in poses and have expressions which distance them from their apparently innocent appearance (AT THIS TIME, 2013), associated with the world of fantasy and childhood. On occasions KAWS has noted that his characters adopt those poses because they reflect how he would feel if he was continually observed.
The works in the present exhibition have never previously been exhibited. Most measure around 2 metres high and weigh one tonne. The central work is the monumental sculpture FINAL DAYS (2013), which measures 6 metres high, has a diameter of more than 3 metres and weighs 10 tonnes. The artist has made it for this exhibition, incorporating new elements such as the treatment of the wood and a different colour range. Another specific feature of KAWSs work is the repetition of certain elements, a device that functions to express the evolution of his characters in comparison to the way human beings experience the passing of time. These original figures have developed to the point where they are now presented as different ones entitled ORIGINALFAKE COMPANION, in which half the bodies have the organs and muscles exposed.
KAWS describes himself as a painter and his early years were associated with that discipline. After completing his art training in New York he went to Japan where he made contact with the emerging Art & Toys movement, based on the collecting of limited edition toys designed and made by artists. From that date onwards a new area opened up in his work. KAWSs career has included a period working for Disney although always associated with design. He moved onto creating his first series of COMPANION in 1999 in collaboration with the Japanese brand Bounty-Hunter. In 2006 he signed an agreement with the Medicom Toy company to launch ORIGINALFAKE, a brand that would market toys as well as illustrations, accessories and clothing with a single shop in Tokyo. KAWS closed the shop in 2013. The first series of the artists toys launched on the market soon sold out. Since then, KAWS has collaborated with VANS, a clothing and sports shoes brand associated with skateboarding, and with designers such as Marc Jacobs. KAWS has also worked on the design of international publications such as NY Magazine, Complex and Vogue.
KAWS was born in New Jersey in 1974. He studied Fine Arts at the School Visual of Arts in New York. In 2008 he held his first solo exhibition at the Gering & López gallery in New York. He has exhibited in galleries, art centres and museums around the world, including Galerie Perrotin in France (2010); the Museum of Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (2011); the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut (2011); the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2011-2012); Galerie Perrotin in Hong Kong (2012); Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo (2013); the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2013); and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas. Among recent collective exhibitions in which he has participated are: Plastic Culture: Legacies of Pop 1986-2008 at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, UK (2009); It Aint Fair in Miami (2010) and Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011). His work has also been shown in public spaces in cities including New York and Hong Kong.