Kaws, real name Brian Donnelly, g: New Jersey 1974, studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After graduation, he briefly worked as a freelance illustrator on Disney’s 101 Dalmatians and the animated series Daria and Doug. He started using the name Kaws as a young graffiti artist in Jersey City. It wasn’t until after moving to New York City in the 1990s that he began to engage in “subvertising,” a practice of parodying and falsifying corporate and political advertisements on billboards, phone booths, and bus shelters; his subvertising has appeared in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.
With many of Pop Art’s stylistic features, such as the inclusion of characters from The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as iconic advertising characters such as the Michelin Man, Kaws’ paintings, prints, and sculptures have been compared to those of Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons. His method of repeating iconic images is a way of making works universally recognizable, thereby transcending both language and culture. Blurring the line between subversion and advertising, Kaws entered into a number of commercial partnerships, starting with the production of vinyl toys for Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter. Other notable collaborations included the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards figurine redesign and an affordable collection of t-shirts and accessories for the clothing brand Uniqlo in 2016.