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KAWS (USA, B. 1974)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
KAWS (USA, B. 1974)

ARMED AWAY

Details
KAWS (USA, B. 1974)
ARMED AWAY
signed and dated ‘KAWS..14’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
223.2 x 503 cm. (87 7/8 x 198 in.)
Painted in 2014
Provenance
Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
Honor Fraser Gallery, MAN’S BEST FRIEND, exh. cat., Los Angeles, USA, 2014, p. 124 (illustrated in colour, pp. 18-19; installation view illustrated, pp. 7, 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13).
Exhibited
Los Angeles, USA, Honor Fraser Gallery, MANS BEST FRIEND, September – October 2014.

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Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

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Lot Essay

KAWS, an amalgamation of his city-driven and graffiti-inspired upbringing, has vehemently established his position in the lexicon of Contemporary Art. ARMED AWAY is not only prodigious in scale, but boundless in its complexity. Standing in front of ARMED AWAY you are immediately drawn in by the artist’s explosive and instantly recognizable vibrant palette. The scale allows KAWS to exercise his proficiency as a colorist in a method seldom captured to this extent. Like no other artist has done since Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, he has transformed his street art and graffiti sensibility into the upper echelons of fine art galleries and institutions. ARMED AWAY epitomizes all that is loved within the new iteration of Pop sensibility which KAWS has continuously transformed. The cartoon and comic imagery instantly conveys the feeling of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop heroes and heroines, while the lively swathes of color and repetition of imagery inspire visions of Warhol’s effortless refinement of pop culture.

Known for marrying his own imagery to popular cartoons, logos and mascots, KAWS executes them in a clean and perfected surface. The rendering of the surface is done to a high degree of finish/fetish that it recalls Warhol’s factory approach in which there is no evidence of the artist’s hand. The clarity of the image that allows the figures to explore the canvas arrests the viewer. Despite the apparently manufactured imagery, KAWS paints by hand, patiently layering each area of pulsating color with a stunning deftness. Furthermore, KAWS allows the viewer to rediscover these pop culture titans in a new context. Warhol turned Marilyn into a religious like figure within gleaming byzantine or filmic compositions, while KAWS turns cartoon characters into momentous figures traversing the KAWS universe like rebellious Greek gods and goddesses.

The sharpness of the figures outlines and associated shadows create a vision, which is striking in its trompe l’oeil complexity. The artist creates a flat surface that is more alive with movement than most three-dimensional objects. The energy and motion created in the present artwork painted in conjunction with the most recognizable images of our contemporary ecosystem exemplify what is loved by KAWS viewers. Presented in KAWS 2014 solo exhibition as an integral artwork, “…a landscape that pictures Tom chasing Jerry offers an immersive dystopian scene of environmental disaster.” The momentous cartoonish figures with classic XX eyes are emblazoned onto a surreal landscape. Neon and emerald colored trees are simultaneously interspersed within a dreamy mountain range. The shapes from which the figures are set convey feelings of abstraction, from gestural to hard edge abstract masters of the 1960s and 1970s. The calculated yet chaotic nature of the composition recalls the controlled spontaneity of a Jackson Pollock drip painting. Rarely does KAWS include a fully rendered landscape – such as the present painting – this exceptional opportunity allows his signature characters to live within an entirely different universe, encouraging the viewer to explore KAWS’s environment in greater depth.

The figure within a figure concept, shown in a uniquely cartooned style, revisits Magritte’s ability to create a world within a world. In the same fashion, KAWS reimagines popular imagery as subversive icons. The dream-like compositions are somehow supplanted in our present reality. Another contemporary master - George Condo - creates multi-dimensional cubist inspired imagery allowing a single figure to display a multitude of physical and mental states, in the same way that Picasso conveyed multiple states of an object within his cubist practice. KAWS exemplifies each of these concepts skillfully, turning immensely scaled figures into ever growing representations of historical and contemporary vision.

KAWS has walked the line of consumerism, fashion and pop culture in a way that few have before him. While KAWS has consistently received acclaim from seasoned collectors and institutions, his work possesses a remarkable awareness of the media culture and has captured the hearts of the fastest growing demographic of collectors, the youth.

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