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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery. New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Richard Prince: Nurse Paintings, September 20-October 25, 2003, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Literature

    R. Prince, M. Collings and Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Richard Prince: Nurse Paintings, London, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot, Tender Nurse, from 2002 exemplifies Richard Prince’s mastery in yielding the past to a new, highly stylized future. The Nurse Paintings series from 2002-2003 showcases Prince’s development of a new classification of art from his long-tenured career in manipulating American mass media and culture. The original nineteen paintings that make up this series offer us a clever pastiche of mass-media, painterly adroitness, female obsession, and even autobiographical intent.

    Perennially ensconced in Americana, Richard Prince is synonymous with artistic expression that brings American prototypes created through mass media and consumption to the foreground. He subverts the pedestrian symbols that have been absorbed into our psyche and elevates them to a form of idolatry. As his work becomes contextualized within their contribution to contemporary art history, the aforementioned symbols take on new meanings as they now become additional signs of the artist’s intent. “His work, by employing a canny approach to the mediated image, takes abstract ownership of a type of imagery that deals with desire and consumption.” (D. Blair, “A Reflection or Two”, Parkett Magazine, No. 72, 2004, p. 99)

    The artist, a self-proclaimed bibliophile, took covers from his own collection of 1950’s and 1960’s pulp fiction novels celebrating the role of the archetypal female nurse, and developed the Nurse Paintings. The actual covers of his books lay the foundation for his highly worked canvases in acrylic (fig 1). Subverting inkjet reproductions onto the canvas, the book covers lie vanished behind the artist’s many layers of brushwork and drip; the intention, of course, is for us to visually consume only the original title and protagonist. They serve as vestiges from the past, masked by Prince’s brushwork yet revealed to suggest the story behind them.

    Prince pioneered the technique of modern rephotography in the 1970s and this series continues his original methods, furthering some of his previous developments. He creates layers upon layer of analogue and digital memory and information; casting an original art work—the book cover, into an inkjet digital reproduction—and transposing his own painting on top, thereby commencing a new expression of artwork by obscuring the complete image of the past and leaving remnants for us to interpret at will. In some cases, he follows the composition of the original book cover, in others he uses it only as a starting point from which he deviates.

    “Prince understood that isolating and removing mass-culture imagery offered an opportunity to examine various codes of representation including gender and class. By re-contextualizing them by severe cropping or removing any ad copy or simply by re-photographing a black and white image on color film, the artist found ways to blur meaning and to create a critical dialogue with the objects created to satisfy the perceived needs of the expanding American consumer. Playing the role of director, Prince has been appropriating and then later submerging these powerful cultural conventions through the various fine art mediums of photography, painting and most recently sculpture with the agenda of exposing universal cultural conventions.” (Brian Appel, Richard Prince, www.artcritical.com)

    In describing his choice of subjects the artist has said, “I'm painting nurses. I like their hats. Their aprons. Their shoes. My mother was a nurse. My sister was a nurse. My grandmother and two cousins were nurses. I collect 'nurse' books. Paperbacks. You can't miss them. They're all over the airport. I like the words 'nurse', 'nurses', 'nursing'. I'm recovering.” (Richard Prince in an interview conducted for “Like a Beautiful Scar On Your Head”, Modern Painters Special American Issue, Autumn, 2002, Volume 15, No. 3).

    It is quite clear that the Nurse Paintings reveal a multi-layered interpretation of the female. The nurses are almost always masked suggesting their restraint, physical or emotional, captured in a continual refrain. Whether they intend to stay quiet or are forced to do so is unknown. This sanitized existence leaves us beckoning to investigate. Then Prince covers their bodies with seemingly blood-stained paint, are his characters morbid or violent? Overtly sensual?

    As Matthew Collings suggests, “I think the Nurses as a whole are about forbidden or constrained sensuality. She’s masked, she can’t breath normally. Communication is made difficult: verbal (for her) and literary (the letters are covered in a mask of paint). RP doesn’t just represent her, he restrains her and he hides her. And when he blinds her, her ability to communicate is hidden, but so is his—and actually the blinding paintings, where he really has smudged our her eyes, have much more playful abstract qualities than the ones where you naturally want to look at her face.” (M. Collings, “Richard Prince’s Fettered Feelings”, Richard Prince: Nurse Paintings, New York, 2003, p. 7)

    Here, in Tender Nurse, Richard Prince extends dripping forms of blood-red paint encompassing her body—red on white and a beautiful magenta background with royal shades of blue intermixed. The protagonist, engulfed in flames of ire and lust, remains calm and in control. Prince’s canvas is unabashedly beautiful and irresistibly appealing, beckoning to the floating blocks of color made by Mark Rothko and the frenzied, mimicked gestures of Willem de Kooning’s women. She is tender but resolute without wavering.

  • Artist Biography

    Richard Prince

    American • 1947

    For more than three decades, Prince's universally celebrated practice has pursued the subversive strategy of appropriating commonplace imagery and themes – such as photographs of quintessential Western cowboys and "biker chicks," the front covers of nurse romance novellas, and jokes and cartoons – to deconstruct singular notions of authorship, authenticity and identity.

    Starting his career as a member of the Pictures Generation in the 1970s alongside such contemporaries as Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Sherrie Levine, Prince is widely acknowledged as having expanded the accepted parameters of art-making with his so-called "re-photography" technique – a revolutionary appropriation strategy of photographing pre-existing images from magazine ads and presenting them as his own. Prince's practice of appropriating familiar subject matter exposes the inner mechanics of desire and power pervading the media and our cultural consciousness at large, particularly as they relate to identity and gender constructs.

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Tender Nurse

2002
Inkjet print and acrylic on canvas.
75 x 103 1/4 in. (190.5 x 262.3 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “R. Prince TENDER NURSE 2002” on the overlap.

Estimate
$2,000,000 - 2,001,000 

Sold for $2,256,000

Contemporary Art Part I

16 Nov 2006, 7pm
New York