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High Museum of Art presents KAWS prints exhibition
KAWS (American, born 1974), ANKLE BRACELET, 2017, screenprint on paper, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of the artist, 2018.48. KAWS, image courtesy KAWS INC.

ATLANTA, GA.- Since his groundbreaking solo show at the High Museum of Art in 2012, acclaimed artist KAWS (Brian Donnelly) has taken the world by storm with major exhibitions across the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, his monumental sculptural installations, augmented reality sculptures, design collaborations, toys, editioned objects and related works have seized the attention of a massive and diverse audience. Drawing exclusively from the High’s collection, “KAWS PRINTS” (Dec. 3, 2021-March 27, 2022) features all the artist’s editioned silkscreen prints in the Museum’s holdings along with a selection of drawings, color charts and rare early prints.

“The High is proud to have been among the first to present KAWS’ work to a museum-going public. That early engagement and his generosity hastened a relationship that has resulted in an astonishingly comprehensive public collection of his graphic work,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “This is the first time our KAWS prints will be exhibited together, and we’re thrilled to give our audience an opportunity to familiarize themselves with this important facet of his work.”

KAWS made his first screenprints in the late 1990s and has since continued to maintain a printmaking practice alongside his production of paintings, sculpture and editioned objects (both real and virtual). Through the syntax of silkscreen printing established by such preeminent and illustrious forebears as Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, which in part obscured distinctions between high and low, KAWS brings into conflict and accord the worlds of fine art, industrial design, technology and popular culture. Like his pop art predecessors, KAWS also has applied his printmaking practice to the advocacy and allyship of causes and cultural institutions.

Grounding his work in a deep and sustained involvement with graphic art and printmaking, from his early “subvertisements” to the sumptuous, painstakingly crafted screenprints created in the last decade, KAWS embraces the democratic principle of making art and culture accessible to all audiences. “KAWS PRINTS” is the first comprehensive exhibition featuring almost his entire output of editioned prints spanning more than 20 years.

Michael Rooks, the High’s Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art, noted, “KAWS has exponentially expanded the reach of art through his practice, broadening the democratizing effect of the multiple in various ways, incorporating new technologies, but always paying respect to the powerful influence of screenprinting in postwar America.”

“KAWS PRINTS” features the single-image edition print “PAPER SMILE” (2013), which he made for his 2012 exhibition at the High, as well as the print portfolios “UPS AND DOWNS” (2013), “BLAME GAME” (2014), “NO REPLY” (2015), “MAN’S BEST FRIEND” (2015), “THE NEWS” (2017), “TENSION” (2019) and “URGE” (2020), bringing the pop art tradition of silkscreen printmaking — from Warhol, Lichtenstein and Haring to KAWS — full circle.

“KAWS PRINTS” is being presented on the second level of the High’s Anne Cox Chambers Wing.

Brooklyn-based KAWS (born 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey) engages audiences far beyond the museums and galleries in which he regularly exhibits. His prolific body of influential work straddles the worlds of art and design to include paintings, murals, large-scale sculpture, street art, and graphic and production design. Over the last two decades KAWS has built a career with work that reveals his formal agility as an artist and his underlying wit, irreverence and affection for our times. The nature of his work possesses a sophisticated humor and thoughtful interplay with consumer products and collaborations with global brands. He often draws inspiration and appropriates from pop-culture animations to form a unique artistic vocabulary for his works across various media. Now admired for his larger-than-life sculpture and hardedge paintings that emphasize line and color, he creates a cast of hybrid cartoon and human characters that are perhaps the strongest examples of his exploration of humanity. KAWS has been exhibited at the Doha Fire Station Museum; National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Brooklyn Museum; Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; and Yuz Museum in Shanghai.

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