KAWS, also known as Brian Donnelly, has made the transition to the fine art world from his beginnings as a graffiti artist in New York City. Donnelly started painting his moniker in and around the walls of NYC and Jersey City during the early 90's and later modifying advertisements on bus stops and phone booths.
Donnelly would incorporate characters like his iconic skull and crossbones character into the original advertisement, then replace the advertisement in its original location. This practice yielded work that would potentially last longer, with authorities less likely to notice a tweaked advertisement as opposed to a tag on a wall. After graduating from art school in the mid 90s, he worked as an animator for Disney, an experience that clearly continues to influence his work to this day.
Donnelly's signature, clean and colorful style garnered interest and press generated from his advertising alterations in cities like Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo, led Donnelly towards doing design-based work. Donnelly's release of limited edition vinyl toys under the name Original Fake had made him a household name in the art toy collecting community.
Donnelly has since done collaborative artwork with companies like Burton Snowboards, Nike, Vans, and BAPE clothing.
Perhaps one of Donnelly's most recognizable works doesn't appear on a canvas or t-shirt but rather the cover of Kanye West's album 808's & Heartbreaks.
DOWN TIME will feature a group of KAWS toys, a grid of 27 round paintings, drawings, a site specific mural, the Companion sculpture (installed outside the High's entrance in November), and a collaborative project with British photographer David Sims.
To kick things off, the High has organized an artist lecture with Donnelly on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Alliance theatre. Then afterwards, there is an opening reception party at 8 p.m. as part of the High's Culture Shock program. DJ Huricane of the Beastie Boys will be spinning tunes on the turntables for the party, and Donnelly will make an appearance at the show's opening.
DOWN TIME will run through May 20, and is open to the public Sat. Feb. 18.
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