Brian Donnelly (born 1974), known professionally as Kaws (stylized as KAWS), is an American artist and designer.
His work includes repeated use of a cast of figurative characters and motifs, some dating back to the beginning of his career in the 1990s, initially painted in 2D and later realised in 3D. Some of his characters are his own creation whilst others are reworked versions of existing icons. As he grew older, his influences came from traditional life painters, such as Gerhard Richter, Claes Oldenburg, and Chuck Close.
He began as a graffiti artist, moving on to subvertising, and now makes sculpture, acrylic paintings on canvas and screen prints. He also collaborates commercially, predominantly on limited edition toys, and also clothing, skate decks and other products.
Kaws sculpture ranges in size from a few inches to ten metres tall, and are made from various materials including fibreglass, aluminium, wood and bronze.
His work is exhibited in galleries and museums, held in the permanent collections of public institutions, and avidly collected by individuals. A number of books illustrating his work have been published. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
*subvertising : 대기업이 지배하는 문화에 대한 냉소, 저항
Donnelly was born in 1974 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration in 1996. After graduation, he briefly worked for Jumbo Pictures as a freelance animator painting backgrounds for animated series 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug.
Donnelly began as a graffiti artist growing up in Jersey City, using the name Kaws. After moving to New York City in the 1990s, he started subvertising billboards, bus shelters and phone booths. He has also subvertised in Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo.
Kaws' acrylic paintings and sculpture have many repeating images, all meant to be universally understood, surpassing languages and cultures. Some of his characters that date back to the beginning of his career in the 1990s: Companion (created in 1999), Accomplice, Chum and Bendy. One of his early series, Package Paintings, was made in 2000. This series, The Kimpsons, subverted the American cartoon The Simpsons. Kaws explains that he "found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics." In addition, he has reworked other familiar characters such as Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man, the Smurfs, Snoopy, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Kaws has periodically shown both paintings and products at Colette in Paris since 1999. His work was included in the traveling exhibition Beautiful Losers, which started at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center and travelled throughout the US and Europe, including his then largest museum show to date at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA in 2012.
Kaws's "Companion", a grayscale clown-like figure based on Mickey Mouse with his face obscured by both hands, was adapted into a balloon for the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as part of its "Blue Sky Gallery" along with other balloons.
Having already created oversized sculptures in the past, he started to produce further sculptures of his "Companion" character for exhibitions in Switzerland, Hong Kong,Malaga and London.
In 1999 Kaws began to design and produce his first vinyl toy with the Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter. He has collaborated on toys with other Japanese companies: Nigo for A Bathing Ape (Bape), and Santastic!. He and Medicom Toy ran OriginalFake, a brand and store in Aoyama, Tokyo that opened in 2006 to sell toys and later clothing but closed in May 2013.
Kaws has collaborated with Jun Takahashi for the brand Undercover, as a voice-over artist for Michael "Mic" Neumann's Kung Faux, and worked on projects with Burton, Vans, Supreme and DC Shoes. There are Kaws-designed small edition bottles for Dos Equis and Hennessy, rugs for Gallery 1950 and packaging for Kiehl's cosmetics. In 2004 he collaborated with Undefeated Brand on a billboard project in Los Angeles. In 2008 he collaborated with John Mayer on guitar picks.
For the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Kaws redesigned the MTV Moonman trophy in the form of his "Companion" character. His 3D model was also used to create a 60-foot tall inflatable version, and he redesigned various event materials.
He has illustrated magazine covers for The New Yorker, Clark Magazine (November/December 2010), i-D. and Sneeze Magazine. He has created cover art for musicians Towa Tei, Cherie, Clipse (Clipse "Till The Casket Drops)and Kanye West (808s & Heartbreak).
Nike Air Force 1 trainers with a Kaws design were released in 2008 (the Nike 1World project involved 18 different designers).
In 2014 Kaws designed the bottle artwork for the scent "Girl" by Comme des Garçons and Pharrell Williams.
In 2016 Kaws collaborated with clothing store Uniqlo to produce a line of T-shirts and accessories that were priced cheaply.
In March 2017 Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand released a capsule collection in collaboration with Kaws – Air Jordan four sneakers customized by Kaws, and a number of apparel pieces.
In April 2017 Kaws collaborated with clothing store Uniqlo and comic strip Peanuts produced by Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts to produce a line of T-shirts, accessories, and plushies that were affordable.
In May 2017, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City released limited supplies of the $200 Kaws Companion action figure, resulting in the MoMA Design Store website crashing due to the unprecedented rush of traffic.
In May 2017, UK auction house Phillips sold a Kaws Seated Companion (2011) bronze sculpture for approximately $411,000 USD.
In May 2018, Kaws installed two 26-foot tall "Companion" and "BFF" sculptures at a shopping complex in Changsha, China.