Brian Donnelly (born 1974), better known as KAWS, is a New York-based artist and designer. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration in 1996. After graduation, KAWS briefly worked for Disney as a freelance animator painting backgrounds, contributing to the animated series 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug.
He began his career as a graffiti artist growing up in Jersey City. After moving to New York City in the 1990s, KAWS started subverting imagery on billboards, bus shelters and phone booth advertisements. These reworked ads were at first left alone, lasting for up to several months, but as KAWS’ popularity skyrocketed, the ads became increasingly sought after.
In 1999 KAWS began to design and produce his first limited-edition vinyl toy with the Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter, which was an instant hit with the global art-toy collecting community.
For the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, KAWS’ company redesigned the iconic moon man statue and illustrated various magazine covers for The New Yorker, Clark Magazine and I-D. He created cover art for recording artists Cherie, Clipse and Kanye West.
KAWS’ acrylic paintings, large-scale sculpture and prints have many repeating images, visually referencing the world of design and Pop art. These images are all meant to be universally understood, surpassing languages and cultures.
His artworks are immediately recognizable as he transforms iconic pop culture characters into thought-provoking works of art. His work possesses a sophisticated humor while utilizing a refined, yet playful, graphic language. His works have been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world.