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KAWS’ six-month exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) opened in the U.K. this month. The exhibition features his well-known skull-and-crossbones motif and cartoonish figures, including variations on popular children’s television icons, such as Spongebob and Mickey, as well as his original characters. With a sardonic sense of humor, KAWS incorporates “images you can’t escape” into his colossal sculptures of aluminum, bronze, fiberglass, and wood, with his largest piece looming over 30 feet tall.
KAWS in 1997 kicked off his work in sculpture with his vinyl toy designs in Japan, and later opened a popular boutique in Tokyo called OriginalFake. His works impose his trademark X-eyes over commercial figures, taking street art’s “defacement” of familiar brands and icons and translating it into three dimensions. Often mentioned alongside Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, KAWS creates works aptly described as “dystopian,” and incorporates the viewer’s nostalgia into their unsettling effect, infusing childhood figures with tainted imagery.
In keeping with his discomfort with traditionally “pretentious” showrooms, the artist’s monumental sculptures are found throughout the famous sculpture park’s rolling outdoor landscapes, including Companion (Resting Place) (2013), Companion (OriginalFake) (2006), Accomplice (2010), and Small Lie (2013). . His acrylic paintings, including five new pieces, are on view in YSP’s Longside gallery. The exhibition will be on display through June 12.