Speak to any graffiti head, streetwear geek, advertiser, skateboarder, sneaker freak, hip hop head, graphic designer, Spongebob fan, street art boff, illustrator or designer toy collector and there is a strong chance that KAWS will pop up somewhere in your conversation.
Ever since KAWS began hitting train yards in the early nineties he has been a front runner. Having played a significant part in shaping the visual language of street art through his subversive poster campaigns, which saw him meticulously remove advertisements and paste them back into place after adding new messages and imagery, there has always been a level of perfectionism evident in his work. This attention to detail resonates in everything he produces, from paintings to vinyl toys, and is arguably the main reason he has made the transition from street artist to fine artist so flawlessly.
KAWS’ latest show at LA’s Honor Fraser is so ladened with colour and flamboyance that one struggles to cite comparisons. A master of colour, composition and tone, elements that define the work of the graffiti writer, KAWS’ iconic images and otherworldly sculptures are a visual feast for the eyes.
Tell us about why you put this particular show together? When I finished my last exhibition at Honor Fraser in 2009 I started to think about what I would do next in the space. I knew it would be painting and sculpture so while I was working on other projects over the last two years I was keeping this show in mind and thinking about how I could do many smaller works that would give me more freedom to experiment in palette and composition.
How has your output changed since your first show at Honor Fraser? In the past few years I have had more opportunities to exhibit and with the help of the internet etc. the visibility has dramatically increased.
What have you tried to achieve with this new body of work? Each body of work is a continuation of the last. As new interests or relationships come in and out of my life the work changes accordingly.
How do you approach image making? It comes from all places. On a daily basis I make note of my likes and dislikes with what I see. It’s hard to turn off, I’m thankful of that.
Your painting style is growing increasingly abstract. Why the change in style? The new smaller paintings in the show are very similar in process to the abstract package painting series I was doing in 2000-2001. I like isolating sections of a drawing and implying a bigger picture.
Do you still consider yourself a graffiti writer? I consider myself a person, it’s the only label I have felt comfortable having my entire life.
What do you collect? I like having works by other artists around me as well as grey sweaters…
What is next for KAWS? I have been working towards a solo show at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas this December as well as a solo show at the High Museum in Atlanta next February.
KAWS ‘Hold the Line’ runs until October 22nd at Honor Fraser, LA.
Text: Thomas Hawkins