Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong debut with KAWS

Galerie Perrotin, Paris

May 10, 2012

The Nature of Need

16 May–30 June 2012

Opening: Tuesday 15 May, 6–9pm
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11–8pm

Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong 貝浩登
50 Connaught Road Central, 17th Floor
Hong Kong

T +852 3758 2180
hongkong [​at​]

Galerie Perrotin, based in Paris, announces the opening of its new gallery in Hong Kong on Tuesday 15 May 2012. Located on the 17th floor of the prestigious 50 Connaught Road Central, Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong is destined to bring a new dimension of contemporary art to the Asian audiences. Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong’s highly anticipated 8,000 square-feet space (nearly 800 square meters) with a view of the magnificent Victoria Harbour is conceived and designed by architect Andre Fu of design studio AFSO.

Famed Brooklyn-based artist KAWS is known for transforming icons of popular culture into cartoon-like characters that are seemingly accessible, easy to identify, and have become instantly recognizable as KAWS interventions. In order to continuously explore the potential of those representations, the artist submits his characters to different abstraction processes that render them unrecognizable, resulting in paintings increasingly akin to the work of the 1960s “post-painterly abstraction” artists, such as Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, and Frank Stella. Currently—as seen in this exhibition—KAWS is paradoxically functioning within the possibly antagonistic traditions of Pop art and Geometric Abstraction, while brilliantly revitalizing the fields of both figuration and abstraction.

The Nature of Need
This new series of vertical canvases can be perceived in multiple ways. The fifty paintings can be seen as one single gesture: one work that has been sliced, much like Damien Hirst’s sliced cows—which have been described as being reminiscent of the process of life and death, and the ironies of our desires and alienations. KAWS’s canvases offer the same paradoxes; they are part of a series, a whole, and yet they can stand on their own, as a single alienated slice. They can be grouped as desired in unlimited ways, two, seven, twenty [. . .]

Chum and Keep Moving
In furtherance of this tradition of Pop art, KAWS alters, transforms, and permutates popular icons into cartoon characters infused with human and animal features. Thus he provides new images—hybrids that are recognizable as being familiar, sweet, and tender due to their soft and supple features, and yet somewhat critical and bittersweet given the imminent presence of the KAWS signature skull, where crossed-out eyes and crossed bones replace a living head, leaving the implication of a dismembered body. Such is the case with the works Chum and Keep Moving.  [. . .]

Chain of Command
The artist draws upon the passion he felt for graffiti as a young adult in this large-scale painting, which presents planks of color similar to the flying slabs that made up the bars of the letters “KAWS” when they first appeared in New York City’s public spaces in the 1990s. Impeccably executed, dense, and intense, the canvas in this exhibition presents a hybrid between the power of abstraction and the recognition (or not) of a cartoon character—the power of figuration. The foreground, an anti-gravitational cluster of floating slabs, challenges normal perspective similarly to abstract works, and veils the presence of a figure, giving the viewer only a glance at a couple of lines (an abstraction) that hint to facial features (eyeballs, teeth, mouths). The distinctive color palette, packed with powerful contrasts of bright and neon colors, also contributes to the equal relevance of the whole canvas. The opaque surfaces are the result of the animation cell paint that KAWS has used since his first job, as a painter of surfaces for an animation company.

Tondo paintings
Taking his influences from popular culture, KAWS associates smaller-scale round canvases with popular and collectible lapel buttons, making the works more personal and approachable, while still acknowledging their collectible qualities. In the history of art, tondos have mainly served to focus attention and enclose the composition around a scene, since the background was generally absent or unimportant. These KAWS tondos subvert traditional notions for round canvases and present almost unidentifiable and fragmented portraits of infamous cartoon characters.  [. . .]