KAWS: Companion at the Parade

The Artist Takes Manhattan With His Inflatable Cartoon Creation

A 41-foot-high monochrome balloon courtesy of the artist KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, is the airborne star of today’s film from director Jake Sumner. The helium-filled polyurethane version of KAWS’s famous “Companion”, a cartoon-like ghoul that sits with its head in its hands as though weeping, was immortalized in all its tragi-comic glory as it drifted along the Upper West Side towards downtown Manhattan last month during the famed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I grew up partly on Central Park West and really loved watching the parade as a kid,” says Sumner, whose recent directorial work includes a music video for Lissy Trullie’s “It’s Only You Isn’t It,” starring Chloë Sevigny. “There was always a very magical feeling to the way the balloons moved.” Part of a dual, simultaneous release of a partner short for I Am Other, the Google channel belonging to musician and KAWS enthusiast Pharrell Williams, this film sees the melancholic creation surreally hovering behind traditional blow-up effigies of Kermit the Frog, Hello Kitty, and the 86-year-old parade’s first floating figure, Felix the Cat. The inclusion of "Companion" proved something of a watershed moment for Donnelly, whose artistic career began with tagging in New Jersey and New York’s derelict buildings and highways. Now, a 16-foot sculpture of KAWS' haunting character is on view at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, while a solo exhibition of his work can be seen at Paris' Galerie Perrotin. “His rise has been mind-blowing,” says Sumner. “It's amazing he's been able to make the leap to that giant level while still keeping his work really fun.”

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  • MOST SHARED IN ART
    MOST SHARED IN ART

    Art Basel Miami: KAWS

    Directors Jauretsi and Crystal Moselle Ask Artists at the 2010 Art Fair About Life

    A graffiti kid who started out climbing New York's billboards in the middle of the night, Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, now garners comparisons to Takashi Murakami and Keith Haring, and his collectors include Lance Armstrong and Pharrell Williams. The artist's often candy-colored paintings and sculptures wink at pop culture, appropriating characters such as The Simpsons, The Smurfs, the Michelin Man and SpongeBob into a fantastical, offbeat world. Original Fake, the company founded by KAWS in the 90s and based out of Tokyo’s Aoyama district, releases his vinyl toys and clothing line, securing an avid fan base in Asia; recently a 16-foot sculpture featuring a pirate skull on the body of Mickey Mouse was erected in Hong Kong's Harbour City. The new career-spanning monograph KAWSwhich he will be signing in the OHWOW bookstore at Miami's Standard Hotel on Friday December 3—brings the elements of his one-man empire together: "Seeing the book has given me perspective on everything I've done until now," he says. "I can now mentally move on to the next thing.” Directors Jauretsi and Crystal Moselle caught up with the 35-year-old in his Brooklyn studio as he was shipping paintings to Miami's Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin for this year’s Art Basel Miami 2010. His current shows at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, and the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, run through December 23 and January 2, 2011, respectively. 


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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Torrisi: Taste New York

    Manhattan’s Italian Specialists Show Off their Five Boroughs-Inspired Tasting Menu

    Photographer Dan Forbes documents Torrisi Italian Specialties chefs and co-owners Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s inventive 7-course prix fixe, “The 2.0 Tasting Menu.” Originating as a sandwich shop on the fringe of New York's Little Italy, with just Carbone and Torrisi in the kitchen cooking for a growing number of covers, Torrisi has evolved into a revered fine dining establishment featuring vintage Tiffany’s oyster forks and antique Delmonico’s crockery. The chefs’ reservation-only 20-course tasting menu mixes local delicacies with playful nuances from their backgrounds, like a ragu served without utensils and only a freshly braided baked semolina bread to mop it up with. “I wanted to give every one of our customers that moment I had—whether they grew up Italian American or not,” explained Carbone. “You ripped a piece of bread when your mom wasn’t looking and you dunked it in the tomato sauce.” Foraging for references from the menu archive at the New York Public Library or Chinatown’s greasy spoons, the Café Boulud alums brainstormed a series of tongue-in-cheek "local" dishes like Manischewitz-Glazed Pork Chop, in tribute to the Jewish delicatessens of the nearby Lower East Side, and Oysters Roc-A-Fella after “Empire State of Mind” rapper Jay-Z. “Whether it’s dry pasta from Raffetto's on Houston Street or a Sichuan pepper from Mott Street, it’s a hodgepodge of ideas that make up the city,” explains Carbone. “We took this perspective of local cuisine and made it our own with what we are passionate about in our area.”

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