A way to share and manage lots.
Gagosian, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Richard Prince appropriates images and text from mass media, advertising and entertainment. His works explore American subcultures and vernaculars, in order to investigate the role that they play in shaping American identity. He has pioneered in his artistic approach by challenging dominant concepts of ownership, authorship and the aura. Consumer driven imagery such as cars, fashion, sex, women and film are at the heart of Prince’s subject matter. Such is the case with Runaway Nurse, 2006, where Prince transforms our notion of the nurturing nurse into a stereotypical seductive healthcare professional. Similar to Warhol’s work, the artist entices his viewers to consider the processes behind the image-dominated culture and its manipulation.
Prince began creating his Joke Paintings in 1985. The artist appropriated the jokes from various sources such as cartoons and joke books re-contextualising them within the realm of fine art. His earlier examples were hand-written, then silk-screened onto monochrome canvases, with no background or additional imagery. Likewise, paintings like Ed Ruscha’s, Sex, 1981 focused on the vernacular to show how words alone instantly assembles explicit images in one’s mind. What it Means, shows the progression of his Joke Painting series, as it includes a rich background of collaged images. While the previous works in the series mainly focused on the language, here the text is more difficult to decipher amidst the busy background of cropped pornographic images. The joke, originally meant to be read with attention becomes a pictorial and graphic composition. It reads: ‘Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you are in the wrong house, that’s what.’ The joke is disconcerting to the viewer as one is confronted with lyrical adultery and sarcasm.
Viewing What it Means, one can explore Prince’s cunning incorporation of both conceptual tactics and popular culture publications. He manages to produce an aesthetic on his own terms by creating works which function in contradictions. It is an art that is sarcastic yet honest, copied yet original, banal yet always striking, leaving a lasting impression upon the viewer.
American • 1947
While some artists are known for a signature style, Richard Prince is most closely associated with his subject matter: for instance, Cowboys, his series of the Marlboro man magnified between 1980 and 1994; Nurses, sinister yet seductive, all copies from pulp novel covers; joke text paintings, simple block lettering of his own or appropriated jokes. Often labelled an artist of the Pictures Generation alongside Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, Prince has been said to be the contemporary artist who most understands the depth and influence of mass media over life in the 20th and 21st centuries. In whichever medium Prince chooses to work, he stays within the realm of appropriation.
Of course Prince is not met without controversy, and he has been on the losing end of several lawsuits involving copyright infringement. His "Instagram" series — unedited reproductions of content posted by models, influencers and celebrities on their personal feeds — sold for upwards of $100,000 at primary market, making for a memorable moment at Frieze Week New York in 2015.
London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm