The road from graffiti to commercial success is not an easy route, street artists don’t always receive the respect and recognition they deserve. However, KAWS not only deserves it, his work commands it.

New York based, KAWS became infamous by subverting imagery on billboards, bus shelters and phone booth advertisements. Instead of treating the ad space as a blank canvas, KAWS would incorporate the imagery into his own message. Seizing commercial messages and altering it to reflect his own is now a staple in KAWS’ work. His role in street art earned him a spot in MOCA’s Art in the Streets.

As an artist and designer of limited edition toys and clothing, his paintings and sculptures are designed to transcend language and cultural barriers. He has reworked iconic characters such as Mickey Mouse, Michelin Man, the Smurfs, Spongebob Squarepants and the Simpsons. The work is unique and straddles the line of fine art and mass-produced merchandise.  By repeating images that are internationally known he is able to infiltrate a larger audience.

In KAWS’ newest work he continues using cartoons to convey his message and places them in circular paintings. The use of vibrant, jubilant colors is contradicted by the look of anger, frustration or horror that many of the animated characters’ facial expressions. What stole the show were the massive companion figures. The statues stood at 10 ft. tall and resembled Mickey Mouse with a skull and crossbones in place of a head. They were both painted black with one displaying the external body, unaltered. The second statue was half  intact body, the other half revealing the organs. The body looked like it was a cadaver that would be used in Toon Town. KAWS’ work is something you shouldn’t miss, his exhibition “Hold the Line,” will be up until October 21st, 2011 at the Honor Fraser gallery in Los Angeles.

by Keisha Raines with photos by Birdman for Warholian

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