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Skarstedt Paris is thrilled to announce TIME OFF, KAWS’s first exhibition at our Paris gallery and his first in the city in over a decade. On view from 17 March – 22 April and featuring a new sculpture and paintings, the exhibition marks the culmination of a series made over the past year.
Although KAWS created this body of work in earnest between 2022 and early 2023, the nascent thought behind this series extends as far back as 2020, with the painting NO EXIT. While this painting was more decidedly narrative, the works on view in TIME OFF take a more inward, meditative reflection on the transient nature of time.
In each painting, CHUM appears before the viewer with complex configurations of bright bands of paint acting as an additional barrier between us and the figure, calling forth the idea that time can feel exceptionally constricting or isolating. Time’s seemingly illusionistic nature binds us to a sense of reality, and yet it is a device of our own making. It feels linear and fixed, but, in reality, is quite cyclical and malleable. When the seeds of this series were first planted, this understanding was at the forefront of our collective mind as we faced personal confinement, with little to do but experience the passing of time.
As KAWS continues to delve into these themes, the paintings in this series become progressively more elaborate and, at times, chaotic. This heightened frenzy likewise speaks to a kind of future we might find ourselves entering. Works such as UNCERTAIN and HIDDEN INTENT exemplify this, as the bars break free of their architecturally rendered confines and shoot out in all directions across the canvas, causing CHUM to duck down or become shrouded by them, respectively. In paintings such as MOVING BACKWARD, THE PRICE OF POWER, and FOGGY FUTURE, one gleams an aura of an artist, a society, or a viewer uncertain of how to navigate the space we inhabit.
While doubt persists in these works, KAWS ultimately leaves his viewers with a palpable optimism for the future. Whether through his choice of vivid colors or the sense of community fostered in a painting such as SILENT WORLD, it becomes clear that not all hope is lost. This balance of uncertainty and positivity evokes John Keats’s idea of “negative capability,” or the ability to seek artistic beauty and make the most of what is around you, even when that prompts, or is provoked by, confusion and uncertainty. By appropriating and modulating certain well-known cultural symbols and placing them in absurd scenarios, KAWS alludes to these existential ideas in more poignant ways that manages to capture what it is to exist as humans, with all the good and the bad on full display.
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