The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), in collaboration with Amtrak, is thrilled to announce that KAWS’ popular 16-feet-tall COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH) sculpture will make its Philadelphia debut on April 11 at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
On view April 11 through May 14, the sculpture is a preview for PAFA’s new Sculpture Plinth Exhibition Program, which will open at PAFA in October 2013 with a sculpture commissioned from KAWS. The Sculpture Plinth Exhibition Program will present a rotating series of site-specific, attention-catching sculptures in an unexpected location—the façade above the front door of PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.
In addition, PAFA will install several large scale sculptures by KAWS in the galleries of the Historic Landmark Building, October through December, 2013, thereby providing an intriguing link between PAFA’s collection of 19th century American art and KAWS’ contemporary pieces.
“I am thrilled that KAWS is creating new work for the façade of our Frank Furness-designed building, restoring art to the plinth that was designed to hold sculpture. His installation at 30th Street will call attention to that project, and start the dialogue between past and present as COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH) is placed opposite Walker Hancock’s iconic sculpture, Pennsylvania World War II Memorial. We are grateful to Amtrak for facilitating this installation,” said Harry Philbrick, PAFA’s Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.
First seen in Hong Kong, KAWS’ COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH) has been displayed in New York City; at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX.
KAWS introduced the now-famous COMPANION in 1999, as a seven and three-quarter inch editioned toy featuring KAWS’ signature inflated skull and crossbones, with a skinny-legged Mickey Mouse body. KAWS chose Mickey Mouse after a search for the most recognizable and international character in the cartoon world to “take down.” Since then, COMPANION has grown in scale and now features the iconic figure sitting down and covering its face with white-gloved hands.
The Brooklyn-based artist KAWS was born in New Jersey in 1974, and is best-known for work that subverts popular culture through its re-imagining of iconic cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, and the Smurfs. In the early 1990s, KAWS began his career as a graffiti artist, and as such, his work blurs the line between “low” and “high” art, between public and private art. His paintings, drawings, and sculpture have been widely exhibited at museums and art galleries around the world. He is internationally known as a graphic artist and a creator of highly sought-after, editioned toys, apparel, and other products.
KAWS studied at the School of Visual Arts (1993-1996), where he focused on creating public artworks by subverting imagery on billboards and advertisements in bus shelters and phone booths. This led to collaborations with commercial photographers and designers, resulting in original artworks that have been extensively published. KAWS comfortably straddles the commercial and fine art worlds with his work, which ranges from graphic, product, and industrial design to painting, drawings, sculpture, wall murals, and silkscreen prints. Working in the historical continuum of Pop Art, KAWS’ recent paintings present abstracted cartoon imagery, making reference to both popular culture and the history of modern painting.
Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America’s first school of fine arts and museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at the Academy. The institution’s world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.