This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more

Seated Companion

Seated Companion
incised with the artist's signature, date and number 'KAWS 11 2/10' (on the underside)
painted bronze
120 x 79.5 x 71 cm. (47 1/4 x 31 1/4 x 28 in.)
edition: 2/10
Executed in 2011
Honor Fraser Gallery, L.A.
Acquired directly from the above to the present owner
Special notice
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.

Lot Essay

KAWS’ Seated Companion (2011) offers a wry and strangely touching look at the dreams and aspirations wrapped up in the imagery
of popular culture, stunningly realised in meticulously painted bronze. One of the artist’s many variations on his Companion character – an anthropomorphic cartoon reminiscent of Mickey Mouse with a skull-and-crossbones head and two signature crosses for eyes – Seated Companion seems to further emphasise the ironic world-weariness of the figure; hunched over in despair, the softened, inflated features of the Companion’s Disney-esque form are animated not by the innocent childlike bounciness of its ancestors but by something closer to existential dread. This juxtaposition is at the heart of the sculpture – in its unexpected twisting of recognisable, mass-produced imagery, KAWS’ work seems to question the way in which the cartoon functions as an instrument of mass media, reinforcing an unrelentingly cheerful vision of the world that represses any semblance of negativity or weakness. KAWS gives his Companion an uncanny freedom to feel sad, subverting media practice to reveal a hidden pathos behind the style. Yet like his great Pop forebears Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, KAWS’ work also seems to be aware of its own complicity with the media culture it is nevertheless critiquing. With his trademark crosses here etched into the hands of the Companion, KAWS casts doubt over the authenticity of his figure’s misery; the nihilistic, slightly morbid sense of the crossed-out eyes (traditionally used in cartoons to indicate death) is here seemingly a pose – a mask that can be adopted at will, simply by placing one’s hands over one’s eyes.

This agile navigation of the media landscape reflects KAWS unusual ascent in the art world. Born in Jersey City in 1974, KAWS (or Brian Donnelly) grew up spray-painting walls and trains in his home city, before moving across the river to New York City, where he quickly established a reputation as one of the best graffiti artists working in the city during the 1990s. Yet it was when the artist graduated to an even more appropriative style of street art that he first established himself as a major figure: responding to the growing trend for large-scale advertising murals being painted over walls previously known as celebrated graffiti spots, KAWS began to interact directly with the city’s billboards and posters. Developing a range of characters, KAWS would paint them into the advertising material, offering ambiguous, comical critiques of the consumerist images being offered to the New York public. The styling of the cartoon seemed to represent to KAWS a uniquely powerful means of communication: ‘[I] found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics’ (B. Donnelly, ‘Graffiti Artist Turned Gallery Artist Turned Art Toy Maker, KAWS’ Pop, February 2007, pp. 260-265). These characters, rendered with flair and professionalism (the artist spent some time working as an animator for Disney) have since become the dramatis personae of KAWS ‘ work, recreated in action figures and clothing as well as the artist’s paintings and sculptures.

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