Skarstedt has announced TIME OFF, KAWS’s first exhibition at their Paris gallery and his first in the city in over a decade. On view from 17th March – 22nd April and featuring a new sculpture and paintings, the exhibition marks the culmination of a series made over the past year.
Although KAWS created this body of work in earnest between 2022 and early 2023, the nascent thought behind this series extends as far back as 2020, with the painting NO EXIT. While this painting was more decidedly narrative, the works on view in TIME OFF take a more inward, meditative reflection on the transient nature of time.
In each painting, CHUM appears before the viewer with complex configurations of bright bands of paint acting as an additional barrier between us and the figure, calling forth the idea that time can feel exceptionally constricting or isolating. Time’s seemingly illusionistic nature binds us to a sense of reality, and yet it is a device of our own making. It feels linear and fixed, but, in reality, is quite cyclical and malleable. When the seeds of this series were first planted, this understanding was at the forefront of our collective mind as we faced personal confinement, with little to do but experience the passing of time.
As KAWS continues to delve into these themes, the paintings in this series become progressively more elaborate and, at times, chaotic. This heightened frenzy likewise speaks to a kind of future we might find ourselves entering. Works such as UNCERTAIN and HIDDEN INTENT exemplify this, as the bars break free of their architecturally rendered confines and shoot out in all directions across the canvas, causing CHUM to duck down or become shrouded by them, respectively. In paintings such as MOVING BACKWARD, THE PRICE OF POWER, and FOGGY FUTURE, one gleams an aura of an artist, a society, or a viewer uncertain of how to navigate the space we inhabit.
While doubt persists in these works, KAWS ultimately leaves his viewers with a palpable optimism for the future. Whether through his choice of vivid colors or the sense of community fostered in a painting such as SILENT WORLD, it becomes clear that not all hope is lost. This balance of uncertainty and positivity evokes John Keats’s idea of “negative capability,” or the ability to seek artistic beauty and make the most of what is around you, even when that prompts, or is provoked by, confusion and uncertainty. By appropriating and modulating certain well-known cultural symbols and placing them in absurd scenarios, KAWS alludes to these existential ideas in more poignant ways that manages to capture what it is to exist as humans, with all the good and the bad on full display.
KAWS, TIME OFF, 17th March – 22nd April, Skarstedt Paris, 2 Avenue Matignon 75008
About the artist
KAWS engages audiences beyond the museums and galleries in which he regularly exhibits. His prolific body of work straddles the worlds of art and design to include paintings, murals, graphic and product design, street art, and large-scale sculptures. Over the last two decades KAWS has built a successful career with work that consistently shows his formal agility as an artist, as well as his underlying wit, irreverence, and affection for our times. His refined graphic language revitalizes figuration with both big, bold gestures and playful intricacies.
KAWS often appropriates and draws inspiration from pop culture animations, forming a unique artistic vocabulary across mediums. Admired for his larger-than-life sculptures and hardedge paintings that emphasize line and color, KAWS’ cast of hybrid cartoon characters are the strongest examples of his exploration of humanity. As seen in his collaborations with global brands, KAWS’ imagery possesses a sophisticated humor and reveals a thoughtful interplay with consumer products. With their broad appeal, KAWS’ artworks are highly sought-after by collectors inside and outside of the art world, establishing him as a uniquely prominent artist and influence in today’s culture.
KAWS (b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) has exhibited extensively in renowned institutions, including solo exhibitions at – Serpentine Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2022); Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2021); The Brooklyn Museum, New York (2021); The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2019); Fire Station, Qatar Museums, Doha, Qatar (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Michigan (2019), Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Missouri (2017); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2016) which traveled to the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China (2017); Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Longside Gallery, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom (2016); The Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga, Spain (2014); Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas (2013); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2013);High Art Museum, Atlanta, Georgia (2011); and Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2011). MORE