In KURF (HOT DOG), KAWS presents a figure both innocuous and acutely referential; drawing upon innumerable animated tropes, the character is immediately familiar to the viewer, situating us within a mainstream cultural narrative far more expansive than the whimsical scene before us. KAWS, who worked as an animator for Disney before establishing his artistic practice, cites mainstream cartoons as a central influence upon his oeuvre, explaining that he “found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people’s lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics.” (The artist cited in Healy & Murray, “Graffiti Artist Turned Gallery Artist Turned Art Toy Maker, KAWS," Pop, February 2007, pp. 260-265) Similar to the impersonal portrayal of animated imagery upon a screen, KAWS deftly removes all trace of the artist’s hand, instead executing the clean lines and saturated colors of KURF (HOT DOG) with the exacting precision of commercial fabrication. This manner of execution originates in KAWS’ years as a graffiti artist, when he would modify billboards and other advertisements with such unerring skill that the additions would seamlessly integrate into the original imagery. Held within the figure’s bright blue hand, the elongated hot dog of the present work appears cartoonishly, even absurdly large, extending out beyond the crisp edge of the canvas. A quintessential food within the American visual lexicon, KAWS’ depiction of such an omnipresent consumer item invokes the legacy of American Pop art, continuing in the tradition of artists as storied as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons. As he rests atop a log, neatly nestled in a thicket of lush grass, the impish figure of KURF (HOT DOG) encapsulates the very best of the artist’s fascinating and pervasive oeuvre, keenly resisting all attempts at categorization while delivering striking commentary upon the visual culture of our day. As Michael Auping attests, “KAWS is not just referring to pop culture, he is making it.” (Michael Auping, "America’s Cartoon Mind" in Exh. Cat., Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Where the End Starts, 2017, p. 63)
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