KAWS’ Infant Print is a screen print enhanced with diamond dust, taken from an edition of 50 made in 2006. It scales 30.5 × 23.5 cm and is printed in colour onto heavy wove paper with full margins. Infant Print draws quite directly from Kaws’ street art technique – the process of adapting or re-appropriating advertising imagery by adding clear cut street art inflected painted interventions that ‘cartoonise’ the subject matter, giving it an entirely new meaning.
KAWS is notorious for having acquired a skeleton key for advertising boxes (the type you might see on a bus shelter). These slim spaces acted like frames for wall-based artwork that elevated his work above that of his contemporaries’ in the street scene. In this instance, the image of a ‘cute’ and wholly idealised baby is transformed into the Companion, Kaws’ iconic skull and cross-boned head. The iconic motif is emblazoned across the image although you can still see the underlying image, - it’s a mask.
The skull and XX crossed eyes recur frequently in the artist’s work. Their significance is of course enigmatic, but a fair reading is that it is suggestive of a deeper view of personality, a psychological x-ray that dissects personality and psyche and undermines the cosmetic exterior of his subject. The baby photograph is fully posed and intended to evoke an emotional response. Kaws’ intervention completely rejigs the image, indicating the fake-ness of the image and the futility of its intended meaning. It reveals nothing of the child depicted but portrays a glossy, instagramable concoction that is not a truthful thing. The baby is posed and becomes a cartoon without substance, as much - if not more - as one of the simple lined images that the artist daubs over it.