The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is a plain, modern building that sits back off a quite part of Main Street in Ridgefield Connecticut about 50 minutes outside of New York City. You could drive right by it and not even notice it but this little museum has played a major role in launching the careers of some of the world’s greatest modern artists. Yesterday the museum hosted the opening for the first solo museum exhibition of Brooklyn-based artist and designer Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS who is tied with Takashi Murakami for my favorite living modern artist. But to be honest the edge probably goes to KAWS since I became a fan of his work really early on and I have followed and collected it for the past 15 years.
A brief background for those who may have never heard of him – KAWS started as a graffiti artist in Jersey City which is right across the river from NYC. He got his hands on a tool for opening bus shelter advertisement boxes and he used the posters as a platform for his work where he would take them, add an inflated skull with crossed bones and X-ed-out eyes (called Companion) and then replace the poster back in the bus shelter. From there the Companion grew into more characters and those grew into a line of toys, apparel, graphic designs and high end art and sculpture. This piece on CBS Sunday Morning or his interview in last months Interview Magazine tell his story better than I can.
I love his work because, like so many of my other inspirations, his creative process gives him the freedom to play with his iconic style and brand in a few different ways. There are times when he works as an artist who creates completely original work like the Companion character which I have always loved since it was born in a co-op take over of commercial advertising.. He will then take his style and overlay it on famous brands like The Simpsons to create the Kimpsons which is a twisted version of the famous characters with his iconic X-ed-out eyes and Companion skulls. Then he will work with artists like Hajime Sorayama will overlay his unique style on top of KAWS Companion to create the No Future Companion. It is this play between the original and co-oped that has kept me interested in his work all this time and it’s great to see the work get this kind of recognition. The show is going to be up through the end of the year so if you are anywhere near NYC between now and then I highly recommend checking it out.
There are also some great photos of the show on Highsnobiety.com including #23 and #24 where you can see yours truly waiting for KAWS and Monica, the curator of the museum to finish their press interviews.