Saturday, February 22, 2020

Collector and KAWS Creator Looks to the Fringes for Inspiration

Show Us Your Walls
By Max Lakin
The artist KAWS (Brian Donnelly) with pieces from his personal art collection in his Williamsburg studio. From left, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s “No. 866, March 23, 1960” (1960) and Ed Ruscha “Bail Jumper” (1990). Cole Wilson for The New York Times
As KAWS, Brian Donnelly creates cartoon-colored reworkings of well-known pop culture characters rendered slightly askew through recurring motifs — cauliflower ears and XXs for eyes — that give the effect of a dream half-remembered. His popularity, based on the raft of toys, fashion collaborations and multimillion dollar auction results, hovers somewhere near the mesosphere. That Mr. Donnelly, who got his start writing graffiti in his native Jersey City, has recently joined the American Museum of Folk Art’s board may sound incongruous for someone routinely designated (and euphemistically maligned) as a street artist. But in fact he collects the work of self-taught and outsider American artists. In an upstairs living space in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, studio, paintings by Joe Coleman and Susan Te Kahurangi King share the wall with large-scale canvases by Peter Saul, while R. Crumb comic panels mix with sketchbooks from graffiti legends like Phase 2 and Dondi White. [More]