The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

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Important Update

January 30, 2011 to June 5, 2011 |

KAWS: Companion (Passing Through)

Companion (Passing Through) is an outdoor project by Brooklyn-based artist Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, who had his first solo museum exhibition at The Aldrich in 2010. On this occasion, KAWS presents a more than sixteen-foot-high sculpture of his Companion, sitting down with both gloved hands covering its face.

KAWS introduced the famous Companion in 1999. The seven and three-quarter inch limited edition toy featured the signature KAWS inflated skull and crossbones, with a skinny-legged Mickey Mouse body. KAWS’s selection of Mickey Mouse was the result of a search for the most recognizable and international character in the cartoon world to “take down” and his interest in challenging its assertive body posture. Since then, he has introduced roughly a dozen versions of the Companion in different sizes, materials, and body postures. Why does KAWS keep revisiting the Companion? By producing the exact same character on different scales, KAWS is eroding the separation between a commercial product—a thirteen-inch toy—and an artwork—a sixteen-foot sculpture. To his mind, the change in scale is not enough to relegate one output to commercial product and the other to art product. Also, repeating a character over and over again only makes it more relevant and delivers a very clear statement.

This Companion (Passing Through) presents a body posture that brings to mind that of Auguste Rodin’s 1902 sculpture, The Thinker. Rodin’s famous work represented a sober nineteenth-century “image of Man meditating in the face of destiny” and is today the quintessential image for representing the intelligentsia. KAWS’s Companion (Passing Through) presents a different tone and, given his humorous delivery, this Companion shies away from the stereotype of The Thinker. Yet both sculptures assume the spirit of their times, implying profound meditation on an uncertain present, tinged with anxiety.

Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, Curator.