KAWS @ PAFA

courtesy of http://www.shotbyjake.com
KAWS @ PAFA is an exhibition featuring work by artist Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS. The Jersey City, Jersey native graduated from New York’s School of Visual Arts where he received a BFA. His career background is diverse, ranging from street graffiti to animating for some of the world’s largest and most iconic corporations. Some liken his style to artists such as Keith Haring. KAWS currently designs and produces his own limited edition vinyl toys, which are a hot item on eBay. He is in demand all over the world, collaborating with musicians, corporations, and other visual artists. KAWS @ PAFA is a unique exhibition, which combines the artists’ contemporary works with The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art’s (PAFA) permanent 19thcentury American art collection.  The exhibition is currently on display in the Historic Landmark Building. 
Two out of three of Companion series
This exhibition offers a truly unique experience to both museum novices and seasoned museum visitors. KAWS’ large toy sculptures, part of the Companion series, are the main attraction. The pieces are on display throughout the second floor galleries and typically shown in groups of threes. The sculptures are constructed of painted fiberglass and rubberized paint; a stark contrast to the marble and oil painted works in the same galleries. They are positioned in a way that obstructs the view of grandiose paintings from great American artists such as Benjamin West. However, instead of feeling intrusive they only enhance the viewing experience. Visitors are given an opportunity to compare and contrast the differences between artistic styles from the past and the present. 
In Gallery 6 forty-two acrylic paintings (Reflection Wall series) on canvas hang in a salon-style fashion. The paintings were created especially for the exhibit. On one wall a small canvas from the series holds its own next to some of the permanent collection. The display is neat but the actual content of that series is not as enjoyable as what is shown in the rest of the galleries. I really enjoyed the Kimpsons series, a reworking of the iconic Simpsons characters.
I think that PAFA should be applauded for their risk-taking. They are known for their training and their collection of “high art.” I think they made a necessary and unique statement by taking on the KAWS exhibition. It will bring in new audiences who will experience not only KAWS’ pieces but also works from the permanent collection. Dialogue about the past, present, and future of art will spark as a result of their endeavor. Also, those who frequent the museum will have an opportunity to see the same works in a new light.

KAWS @ PAFA 
October 12, 2013-August 2014