Brooklyn-based artist and designer KAWS (Brian Donnelly) is one of the most acclaimed contemporary heirs of Pop Art. Continuing the legacy of the movement’s founding father Andy Warhol, who transformed banal images of Campbell soup cans and Coca Cola bottles into an explosive art world sensation, KAWS takes the embrace of consumerist culture to the next level by infiltrating the realm of mass commodity with his highly distinctive characters and cartoon icons. Best known for appropriating characters from popular culture and remodeling them with his trademark skull heads with crossbones and X-ed out eyes, KAWS’s quirky revamp of the familiar reinvents a unique taxonomy that permeates the worlds of contemporary art as well as commercial retail through collaborations with design labels such as Original Fake, Medicom Toy, Supreme, Nike, and NIGO.
Make the Run (Lot 134) hails from a distinctive series of iconic tondo (i.e. circular) paintings that KAWS created in 2012 showcasing various cropped close-ups of his iconic characters. A Renaissance term for a circular work of art, the word ‘tondo’ derives from the Italian rotondo, or ‘round’; historically, tondos featured enclosed scenes, with the circular composition serving to focus the viewer’s attention on the scene. KAWS subverts the traditional feature of round canvases, presenting almost unidentifiable fragments of portraits of his cartoon characters. Furthermore, his distinctive color palette imbues every inch of the composition with equal relevance, rendering foreground and background almost indistinguishable, with each intense hue fighting for the viewer’s attention. In this instance, the present work seems to feature an inflated facial fragment of KAWSBOB – the popular cartoon character Spongebob revamped with the signature KAWS’ twist. By creating a hybrid of the recognizable and the alienated, the work demands active engagement of its audiences to re-associate the abstracted with the figurative.