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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    London, Serpentine Gallery, Richard Prince: Continuation, June 26 – September 7, 2008 (another example exhibited)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The American cowboy of the mind is a romantic, monumental pulp-fiction figure…He is Alexander the Great in chaps and boots.  He is colorful, masculine to the point of caricature, a license-plate emblem, a billboard, a restaurant chain, a figure of speech indicating rough fun or brash aggressiveness.  Abroad he is the representation of America, so deeply is he embedded in our national character and ethos” (A. Proulx, Richard Prince: Spiritual America, New York, 2007, p. 284)
     
    Untitled (Cowboy) is among Richard Prince’s most iconic works as well as one of his most emblematic images. For his Cowboys series, specifically, Prince appropriated images directly from Marlboro cigarette advertisements, then re-photographed, cropped and eliminated the text from them. “In so doing,  Prince undermined the seeming naturalness and inevitability of the images, revealing them as hallucinatory fictions of society’s desires” (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Further intensifying their own artifice, this subtle yet deceptive act of re-photographing advertising images and presenting them as his own initiated a new, critical approach to the production of art. A response to American consumerism and identity, Prince’s Cowboys question notions of originality, authorship and the privileged status of the unique art object. In fact, “it is now widely accepted that Richard Prince was slightly in advance of several other artists in his use of this radical method of appropriation known as re-photography, and that he played a significant role in the development of a new, oppositional type of photographic practice, critically described as postmodernist. He was part of a generation that …that used photographic procedures to simultaneously redefine photography and art.” (L. Phillips, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p. 28)
    Prince began his artistic career at Time-Life magazine, clipping articles of potential interest for the writers. What remained, most would have considered useless scraps, but instead Prince saw ready-made art. The simplicity of his genius lay in taking (or in his own words, stealing) these un-authored images, re-photographing them and calling them art. The comparison to the pioneering Marcel Duchamp is powerful and significant.  In the same way that Duchamp challenged the preconceptions of the artistic process and of what could be labeled as art for his generation, so does Prince for ours. Duchamp said of his first readymade, the famous Bicycle Wheel, that he “created” it because he enjoyed looking at it. This is a fundamental principle of Prince’s art and is evident in all of his work.  Richard Prince believes art should make people feel good and so he creates what he likes.
    Functioning in the public imagination as a symbol of power, strength and masculinity, the cowboy is an icon of American sovereignty. The Marlboro men exemplify this archetype, amplified by backdrops that draw from the traditions of American landscape painting and the spectacle of Hollywood Westerns. At the same time, “the image of the cowboy is so familiar in American iconology that it has become almost invisible through its normality. And yet the cowboy is also the most sacred and masklike of cultural figures. In both a geographical and cultural sense, a cowboy is an image of endurance itself, a stereotypical symbol of American cinema. He is simultaneously the wanderer and the mythological symbol of social mobility.  Even today, the image of the cowboy has not lost its luster” (L. Phillips, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p. 95).
    While the Cowboys series is the body of work with which Prince is most commonly associated, it is that with the least personal intervention on his part. Other than some minor compositional adjustments, the images are almost perfect reproductions of the original Marlboro advertisements.  Indeed, Prince only started re-photographing these advertising images after the marketing company had stopped using the Marlboro Man in their pictures. As the artist himself recalls, ‘without him as an identifying factor, it was easier to present these pictures as something other than they were.  I think that’s the way I felt at the time anyway. Other than I was” (L. Phillips, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p. 95). From this, one might suppose that out of all of Prince’s works, the ones from this series are his own self-portrait, his mask. In other words, “as embodiments of untruth, they are the most truthful.  Or, as Prince might say, they are the most ‘convincing’; picture-perfect dissimulations” (L. Phillips, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p. 95).

  • Artist Bio

    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.

    View More Works

113

Untitled (Cowboy)

1998-1999
Ektacolor photograph.
59 1/2 x 83 1/2 in. (150.8 x 212.1 cm).

Signed “Richard Prince” on a label adhered to the reverse. This work is from an edition of two plus one artist’s proof.

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

sold for $902,500

Contemporary Art Part I

8 November 2010
New York