Brian Donnelly (born 1974), aka KAWS, is one of the most prominent and prolific artists of his generation. His body of work straddles the worlds of art, fashion and design to include paintings, murals, large-scale sculptures, street and public art, and fashion, graphic and product design. His work is infused with humour, humanity and affection for our times. Admired for his larger-than-life sculptures and colour-filled paintings, KAWS’s cast of hybrid cartoon and human characters are drawn from pop-culture animations and form a distinctive artistic vocabulary.
The exhibition title KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness foregrounds the emotional content of the artist’s work. Through his works KAWS celebrates generosity, support for others and the deep need we have for companionship. KAWS represents someone who is very much of our time in terms of working across contexts and in hybrid and collaborative ways, and his work presents an antidote or rejoinder to the increasingly toxic nature of public discourse and social media, and division within and across societies. He reminds us we need one another and that life should be lived as compassionately as possible to combat this ‘Age of Loneliness’, in the face of fear and hatred.
KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness is a major contribution to the growing international reputation of this contemporary artist. It follows KAWS’s recent solo presentations at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2016), the Yuz Museum Shanghai and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2017) and the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation (2019). This exhibition introduces audiences to the full range of KAWS’s artistic output, including a newly commissioned monumental sculpture (his largest bronze sculpture to date), paintings reworking pop-culture figures and an impressive collection of human-scale sculptural figures. KAWS’s collaborations with other artists will be explored in the exhibition and those with major brands on display in the dedicated pop-up shop along with his own products.
An accompanying publication, available from December 2019, features a situating essay by exhibition curator Dr Simon Maidment and a specially commissioned essay by renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The book documents KAWS’s artistic practice across his whole career and incorporates installation documentation of the NGV exhibition.