KAWS was born in 1974 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He first became interested in graffiti in elementary school, where he trained his hand copying graffiti images into his notebooks. He later became influenced by the likes of Gerhard Richter, Klaus Oldenberg and Chuck Close.
KAWS’s career began as a graffiti artist in New York in the early 1990s, where he painted on billboards, bus stops and in phone booths. He obtained his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and soon started working as a freelance artist for Disney. Once he began to gain popularity, his graffiti advertisements became highly sought after and KAWS travelled to work in Europe and Asia. In 1998, he received the Pernod Liquid Art Award, which offers a grant to new artists.
KAWS has had solo exhibitions held in galleries, museums and institutions all over the world. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
KAWS’s work is characterized by an emphasis on color and bold line, highly-recognizable graphics (such as the repeated use of “x” symbols on his characters’ hands and nose and ears), and an appropriation of pop culture icons such as Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man, the Smurfs and SpongeBob SquarePants among others.
His characters are also often depicted in a shy standoffish pose, often with their hands over their face.