KAWS: WHAT PARTY?” at the Brooklyn Museum, for example, does an excellent job of taking KAWS seriously while not taking him too seriously. They might have spent a lot more time making overblown claims about the meaning of the work to try to explain its importance before skeptics like us. Some do not.

It's a show for KAWS' many, loyal fans. The article begins with photos of KAWS' '90s graffiti next to a few examples of his "subvertisements," urban interventions in which he replaced advertising images with his own cartoon graphics. Then there are his paintings, featuring images of ‘80s cartoons turned sad and nearly ridiculous with their eyes half open in boredom.

There are also the vinyl toys KAWS designed by himself or in collaboration with companies like Uniqlo or Louis Vuitton, which have made him a household name in hipster households. He has helped popularize the use of black and white in contemporary design and introduced a characteristically simple cartoon cute that is simultaneously countercultural and mainstream—a difficult trick to pull off (and I am not using “trick” as anything but an identifier here—it is a product of natural talent and alchemy).KAWS has made this particular aesthetic style (and the term “aesthetic” is indeed popular worldwide. And that, in turn, continues to make KAWS popular. He has become one of the most respected figures in contemporary urban art in spite of the fact that he has never been a graffiti artist. His work is rooted in the street, but it’s not exclusively bound to the street as many of those artists are—it lives off of being reproduced and sold in galleries and department stores. It thrives on a wide variety of investments from fans who have no idea how well-versed they are in the tropes of pop culture.