KAWS brings giant cartoon creations to Yorkshire Sculpture Park

In his first major UK show, artist and toy designer KAWS brings a series of enormous pop art inspired characters to the lush green hills of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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YSP in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, will be home to KAWS’ gleaming balloon-like cartoon creations until June, where the backdrop looks set to transform come rain, snow or sun.

Brooklyn based KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, studied illustration at the School if Visual Arts in Manhattan in the 1990s, whilst graffing up local freight trains, and gained notoriety from subverting outdoor advertising in major cities around the world.

Along the Way, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Along the Way, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Final days, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Final days, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)

KAWS has since designed toys for several hipster Japanese brands, collaborated on clothing for the likes of Nike and DC Shoes, been commissioned by mags including i-D and The New Yorker, and taken up a range of other commercial ventures from Hennessy drink bottles to cosmetics packaging for Kiehl’s, and even a fragrance bottle with Pharrell Williams.

Small Lie, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Small Lie, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Along the Way, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Along the Way, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)

The sculptures in the latest show are crafted in KAWS trademark style of skull and crossbones heads and blobby bodies, from a range of materials including fibreglass, aluminium, wood and bronze are shown alongside smaller works and a series of large, brightly coloured acrylic paintings on canvas found in the inside Longside Gallery space.

Appearing as imposing, carnivalesque characters in the landscape perhaps, but there’s something almost forlorn about these semi-familiar figures. With weary heads bowed, and eyes crossed, they have a certain ‘lost doll’ quality. Darkly humorous, like inside-out Disney icons, they are likely to draw younger audiences to the park.

Installation shot (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Installation shot (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
installation-of-kaws-sculpture-at-yorkshire-sculpture-park-2016-courtesy-the-artist-and-ysp-photo-©-jonty-wilde (1)
Installation shot (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
installation-of-kaws-sculpture-at-yorkshire-sculpture-park-2016-courtesy-the-artist-and-ysp-photo-©-jonty-wilde (3)
Installation shot (Photo: Jonty Wilde)

From other large-scale characters such as Sophie Ryder’s Lady-Hares; and unusual installations like Micheal Zwingmann’s hay bale-like Invasion; to works in the gallery spaces and basement crypt with Roger Hiorns blue crystalline Seizure and emotive video pieces by Bill Viola – YSP has seen an impressively varied collection of permanent and temporary artworks, to which the KAWS’ exhibition makes a welcome and engaging contribution.

A behind-the-scenes timelapse film (above) shows the installation of KAWS’ ten-metre tall SMALL LIE (2013)

Small Lie, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Small Lie, 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Companion (Resting Place), 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Companion (Resting Place), 2013, KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Survival Machine canvases, 2015, KAWS
Survival Machine canvases, 2015, KAWS
Installation shot of OriginalFake Companion (2006), Chum (pink) (2009), and Clean Slate (2014), KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)
Installation shot of OriginalFake Companion (2006), Chum (pink) (2009), and Clean Slate (2014), KAWS (Photo: Jonty Wilde)

KAWS exhibition runs from 6 February to 12 June 2016

http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/kaws