Brian Donnelly, professionally known as KAWS, is a New York-based artist and art collector.

What originally drew you to Karl Wirsum’s work? Tell us about the pieces you own by him.

I became aware of Karl’s work after discovering Jim Nutt‘s paintings and wanting to learn more about the Hairy Who artists. Karl’s work immediately stuck out to me, and as I’ve learned more about it over the years it continues to grow on me.

I first started to collect his early drawings from the 60′s and then his more recent paintings, and lately I have been focusing on his sculptures a bit. I like to hop around and look at different pockets of his work at different times. He’s been prolific in these three mediums for so many years that you really have a lot of opportunities for new discoveries.


Karl Wirsum, Untitled (Study for a Hairy Who Comic Panel) , 1968, india ink and color pencil on paper. Collection of KAWS.

KarlWirsum-Standing Figure

Karl Wirsum, Standing Figure, circa 1967 -1971, acrylic on wood. Collection of KAWS.

Were you ever influenced by the Chicago Imagists in your own work?

I like learning about all different artists and artist groups; it gives me a better understanding of what’s happened before and is happening now. The Chicago Imagists are a great example of artists who continued to create the work they wanted to create and let the world around them catch up. I find that inspiring.


Karl Wirsum, Untitled, 1969, ballpoint pen and color pencil on paper. Collection of KAWS.


Karl Wirsum, All Puffed Up, 1970, acrylic on papier mâche laid on wooden table. Collection of KAWS.

Being an artist yourself, how did you begin collecting art by other artists? What is the most recent piece you acquired? What other artists’ work do you live with?

It started pretty simply by trading work with friends and realizing that I enjoyed having other artists’ original works around me in my home. Some of the artists I live with are H.C. Westermann, Peter Saul, Yokoo Tadanori, Todd James, Ed Ruscha, Keiichi Tanaami, Robert Crumb, Mike Kelley, Lee Quinones, Keith Haring, Erik Parker, Jim Nutt, Hajime Sorayama, Jamian Juliano-Villani, George Condo, Tomoo Gokita, Joyce Pensato… It’s a random gathering but somehow makes sense in my head.


Karl Wirsum, Yodel Me Back to Orville Overhaul, 1998, acrylic on canvas. Collection of KAWS.

Which emerging artists are you following right now?

It doesn’t matter to me if an artist is emerging, mid, late career, involved in the art world, outside of the art world. I look at it all regardless.


Karl Wirsum, Boxer/ Mighty Might in the Green Trunks (blue trunks), 1968, acrylic on papier mâche laid acrylic. Collection of KAWS.

Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?

The Newcomb Art Museum at the Tulane University now has an exhibition of work by Karl and Tomoo Gokita from my collection as well as some of my work. It will stay on view through January 3rd, 2016.

Next year I’ll have an exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the UK and later in the year a survey show at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth that will travel to the Yuz Museum in Shanghai in 2017.


Karl Wirsum, Untitled (Study for the painting "Screamin" J. Hawkins")d , 1968, India ink, ballpoint pen, color pencil on paper. Collection of KAWS.

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