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KAWS at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

On a cold but sunny Tuesday morning we visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to check out the KAWS exhibition.  YSP are the first UK museum to exhibit work by KAWS and his cartoon like figures have taken over the park in enormous proportions.

UPS AND DOWNS (2012) courtesy the artist and YSP, photo by Farzad Owrang

KAWS is an American graffiti artist, painter, illustrator, sculptor, toymaker, and product designer. He was born in 1974 in Jersey City as Brian Donnelly. In 1996 he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration. After graduation, KAWS briefly worked for Disney as a freelance animator painting backgrounds, working on the animated series 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug. While living in Jersey City, KAWS began his career as a graffiti artist. By the early 1990s his work could be seen on billboards, bus stops and phone booths throughout New York City. By the late 1990s, KAWS had an opportunity to design and produce limited edition vinyl toys.

Jack -

I like how all KAWS’s characters have the same skull and cross bones so you know it’s his work.  My favourite work by KAWS was Ups and Downs. I love all  the  colours he uses and the clean lines. I could look at his work all day, the more you look the more you notice. My favourite sculpture was Companion (Resting Place). I thought that the bright colours against the black really stood from the rest of the sculptures.  I liked all the detail and how it was sat on the floor.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  Since we saw the exhibition I have been taking inspiration from KAWS to create my own work.  I have been using acrylic on canvas to create bright pieces of work like I saw at the gallery, but one day I would love to be able to make toys and sculptures just like KAWS.

COMPANION (RESTING PLACE), 2013 Courtesy the artist and YSP. Photo © Jonty Wilde

ArtWorks Interview with Dr Helen Pheby, Senior Curator at YSP

Liz - Why did KAWS choose to do his show at the YSP?

We are one of the very few places in the country, maybe even the world, which can show paintings in a gallery and huge sculptures in the open air. KAWS also liked that we are free and that lots of people visit, so will see his work.

Philip - How did the KAWS sculptures get made? Was it at Yorkshire Sculpture Park?

KAWS works with very skilled carpenters and sculpture makers in Belgium. They were made there then came to YSP on a lorry and ferry. 

Micheal - How long did they take to build?

It took two weeks to build all of the outdoor sculptures, with around 14 men working every day. SMALL LIE, for example, took five people one week and needed a large crane too.

Mark - Which is your favourite KAWS sculpture and why?

I think my favourite is GOOD INTENTIONS, which is new. We are the first people to ever see it and I like that the Companion character in it seems to be a bit more confident, now he has a child to protect.

GOOD INTENTIONS (2015) Courtesy the artist and YSP. Photo © Jonty Wilde

Jason - How are the sculptures coloured in?

The outdoor sculptures are all made of wood and painted. The indoor sculptures are made of different materials: bronze, aluminium, fibreglass and vinyl. The metal ones are painted once they are made. The colour is mixed into the fibreglass and vinyl before the sculptures are made.

Tim Which one is the biggest?

SMALL LIE, which isn't small at all! It is nearly 10 metres tall.

Phil - How did you make the big ones stand up? Was it hard to do?

First big holes had to be dug in the grass, and then concrete was poured in to make the bases. The sculptures have special fittings underneath the feet that fix into the concrete, making sure they can stand up and be safe.

Emmie - What will happen to the sculptures when the show finishes? 

The sculptures will go back to KAWS and will probably be shown in other places, maybe even travelling to other countries.

Jason - We need to do decorate our garden at Art Works can we have the big one?

If it was ours I would let you borrow it but unfortunately it doesn't belong us. Perhaps you could build your own sculptures for your garden? 

Jack - What next at YSP?

An exhibition called At Home, with sculptures, paintings and drawings based on things you might find where you live. This exhibition opens on 19 March.

Eric - If we make a sculpture can we display it at YSP?

We might be able to show it for a few days, depending on how easy it is to move around. Or you could build it in your garden and send us pictures, and we'll show them to everyone we know!

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