Kaws Tension at Zebra One Gallery



KAWS (American, b.1974) is a notable limited-edition toy and clothing designer. He was born in Jersey City, NJ, as Brian Donnelly. Growing up in New Jersey, KAWS first became interested in graffiti in elementary school, where he spent a good deal of time copying graffiti images onto paper.

His first influences were neighborhood children, who painted graffiti images on walls within his community. As he grew older, his influences came from traditional life painters, such as Gerhard Richter (German, b.1932), Klaus Oldenberg (Swedish, b.1929), and Chuck Close (American, b.1940).

Not Just a Designer

Brian Donnelly is currently best known as the artist KAWS, he is a New York-based artist who has made a name out of him designing limited edition toys and clothing. Donnelly is also a celebrated and much collected artist who exhibits across the globe in museums and art galleries.  KAWS has moved beyond the sphere of the exclusive art market to occupy a more complex global market that encompasses toys and collectibles.

Born in New Jersey in 1974 Brian Donnelly graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York where he studied hard and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration. After graduating from college in 1996 he worked for Disney as a freelance animator. At Disney Donnelly had the opportunity to paint backgrounds and contribute in major animated films.


KAWS began his career as a graffiti artist in Jersey City moving to New York City in the earl 90’s and began to work on subverting advertising imagery on bus shelters, phone booths and billboards. he was starting to make a name for himself and his notoriety and popularity made these ads became increasingly sought after.

Toys and Apparel 

KAWS came into his own in the late 1990’s when he had the opportunity to design and produce limited edition vinyl toys with Medicom they instantly became a hit becoming massive in the Japanese market and global art toy-collecting community. 

Most recently KAWS has designed toys and clothing for well-known companies such as Comme de Garcons, UniQlo, A Bathing Ape, Undercover, Nike, Kung Faux, Vans, Original Fake 

Paintings and Sculptures

He has also been highly praised for his work on acrylic paintings and large sculptures. One of the more popular KAWS sculpture is that of a gray scale figure based on the Mickey Mouse whose face is obscured by his both hands. This image was even incorporated into a balloon for the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2013, KAWS’s company redesigned MTV’s moon man statue for their 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

The artist’s solo exhibitions have been held at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, CT, the Harris Museum in Preston, UK, the Parco Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, and the City Gallery Chastain in Atlanta, GA. His solo exhibition, OriginalFake at the Bape Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, featured a sculpture entitled Wonderful World, which sold for US$400,000. KAWS’s traveling exhibition, Beautiful Losers, toured throughout Europe and the United States and included a showing at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA.KAWS currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.