A way to share and manage lots.
£100,000 - 150,000
sold for £125,000
Skarstedt Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, Skarstedt Gallery, Spring Group Show, 30 April - 30 May 2015
Immersing the viewer in his subversive and inappropriately witty realm of rehashed jokes, Untitled (Cartoon) is a critical example from Richard Prince’s controversial and celebrated oeuvre. From the outset, Prince has placed the relationship between image and language at the centre of his work, in particular the transgressive capability of the simple, lowbrow joke. The artist’s work advanced dramatically in the 1970s when he imaginatively embraced what would go on to define his artistic career; piracy. By appropriating photos or cartoons contrived to represent some form of the real world, Prince adopts a shrewd strategy that challenges the distinction between truth and fiction.
Here, what would appear to be a facsimile of a one-line gag cartoon from The New Yorker Magazine is assumed and manipulated, pasted against a backdrop of newspaper print. Untitled (Cartoon) belongs to a body of works in which Prince copied hand drawn cartoons from The New Yorker and Playboy Magazine. Commenced in 1984 and initially created for the artist’s own amusement, these works were the absolute antithesis of the decidedly expressionistic paintings governing the New York art scene of the 1980s. Unlike his photographs, these studies reveal his masterful hand as an artist. Worked with crimson hues, the image is obscured and hidden beneath the artist’s bold illustration. Like advertising, cartoons reflect a certain collusion of cultural taste, desires and prejudices. Taking this as the foundation of his work, the artist deconstructs the images and exposes their artifice. In the present work, Prince focuses on a young, buxom lady with a man draped across her midriff as though caught and exposed in a moment of privacy. The words ‘turn off the lights?? Are you kiddin’ me??!!’ intermittently emerge from layers of thick, red scrawl. The couple’s image is reflected in mirrors surrounding the bed in tenfold, their own conduct shining right back at them. What emerges from this amalgamation of text and image is an uninhibited play of meaning to produce a work that is at once entertaining, erotic and also self-aware, metaphorical of Prince’s own relationship with pictures. In Untitled (Cartoon), the viewer is led along a witty narrative towards the concluding punch line, resulting in a humorous composition tinged with embarrassment or even self-recognition. Exemplary of Prince’s penchant for the provocative and his cynical, self-deprecating humour, the present work is simultaneously comical and menacingly accurate.
What started as simple transferrals, handwritten jokes and redrawn cartoons on scraps of paper in the 1980s has become an irrefutable staple in Prince’s art. Indulging in his own, critical humour, Untitled (Cartoon) is a delightfully ingenious and unadulterated example of Prince’s reductive aesthetic and his ability to seamlessly combine images with punch lines that create mixed metaphors, complicated scenarios and Freudian slips.
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.
£100,000 - 150,000
sold for £125,000
London Auction 6 October 2017