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KAWS at the Brooklyn Museum: A Coming-Out Party

  • February 24, 2021

“What Party” offers the opportunity to gawk at “The KAWS Album” (2005), a version of the “Simpsons” gag, itself a parody of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover. (His painting sold at auction for nearly $15 million in 2019.) A generous reading would be its ability to say something about how the regurgitation of mass-culture images renders them meaningless. At worst, it highlights the need for a wealth tax.

Japan is also where Donnelly first encountered otaku culture, whose adherents have a rabid appetite for manga and anime, and for collecting the related figurines that have become a kind of shadow market. He began adding toy making to his practice with his enduring characters, Companion, a skull-headed figure with Mickey Mouse’s puffy mitts and distended belly but otherwise sapped of color; Chum, a Michelin Man mutation; and BFF, who looks like a rangy, excommunicated Muppet. They have all proven endlessly fruitful, shaped into eight-inch vinyl and eight-foot fiberglass, among other permutations. More often than not, they appear alone, in states of dejection and existential malaise, though sometimes they’re paired, as in “Gone” (2018), a six-foot-tall Companion carrying a limp, cotton-candy-colored BFF, à la Michelangelo’s Pietà, for an effect that is both droll and dopey.

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