Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    EXHIBITED   New York, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Richard Prince: Nurse Paintings, 20 September – 25 October, 2003; Jevnaker, Kistefos Museum, Pulp 11, 13 May – 30 September, 2007

  • Literature

    M. Collings & R. Prince, ed., Richard Prince Nurse Paintings, New York, 2003, p. 62 (illustrated); M. Fineman, ‘The Pleasure Priniciple. Richard Prince’s Post-Pulp Art Take a New Step’ in Slate, 30 October, 2003; S.C. Regan, Women, Los Angeles, 2004 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    For the artist Richard Prince, his interest in collecting has a major influence upon his artistic output: “I don’t see any difference now between what I collect and what I make. It’s become the same. What I’m collecting will, a lot of times, end up in my work.” (Richard Prince quoted in “Artist: Richard Prince,” New York Magazine, April 25, 2005)
    As a self-avowed bibliophile, books are some of the most important things that Prince collects, from rare first editions of great works of literature, to trashy novels which he chooses for their lurid over-the-top cover images. These covers, from the collection of ‘naughty nurse’ titles he has amassed over the years, provided Prince with the inspiration for a major series of paintings which were originally exhibited together in 2003 as the ‘Nurse Paintings’. Surfing Nurse is from this series, and embodies Prince’s unique ability to mine the American culture for visually compelling images which he appropriates and re-contextualises in order to critique the culture which produced those images. The nurse of the title is seen in profile, appearing demure or utterly absorbed in her task at hand, wearing a white surgical mask and hat which obscures all but the faintest glimpse of her blond hair and one closed eye, long lashed and framed with a perfectly groomed eyebrow. The rest of the painting tells us nothing about the woman, other than the fact that she was featured on the cover of a novel with the title ‘Surfing Nurse’, as the text hovering above her head in a wash of neon-pink announces. The vibrant blue painted surface of Surfing Nurse masks the rest of the original cover treatment, leaving behind only the female figure and the text. This generic figure, identified only by her profession, is a symbolic depiction of the fetishised role of the nurse within American culture – from pulp fictions to television dramas – as vixens and vamps, and potentially sinister women. Prince has struck a chord with the Nurse Paintings: in honing in on the anonymity of the female figures he lets them stand in as objects of desire as they were intended in their original context of the book covers. “The titillation has as much to do with nostalgia for the artifacts of a lost pulp culture as with sexual desire or even violence.” (V. Katz, “Richard Prince at Barbara Gladstone,” Art in America, March, 2004, p. 127)
    Prince is clearly treading on ‘Warholian ground as a magus of contemporary American culture’ and has turned these otherwise-ordinary, albeit low brow, images of nurses into something iconic through repetition, reworking of original source material and careful choices of colour and composition. The paintings are made by scanning the original covers into a computer, producing inkjet prints which are transferred to canvases, and then painting over the printouts. The painting style is purposefully evocative of the post­war era that saw the rise of pulp fiction, the same era that gave birth to Abstract Expressionism. Combining the mass culture appeal of these retro campy book covers with a similarly retro painterly style, Prince has created what David Rimanelli calls a “blood, drippy splatter sampling of AbEx gesturalism.” (“Best of 2003,” Artforum, December 2003, p. 116) The Nurse paintings are stunning successes because of Prince’s ability to allude to the mid-century painters, the quintessential icons of American post-war painting. “The built-up layers and floating blocks of colour are winking allusions to Mark Rothko, while the figures of the nurses, their white uniforms swiped and splattered with paint, mimic the gestural fury of Willem de Kooning’s women. Their juicy colours and sensuously worked surfaces are unabashedly beautiful and irresistibly appealing.” (M. Fineman, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ taken from, October 30, 2003)
    Throughout Prince’s career he has repeatedly used appropriative techniques to express his fascination with and critique of American culture, and often his different series of work express a level of interplay with each other. “Most everything Richard does is calculated to reflect another of his practices. Every medium and every theme is supported by, and in turn supports, another body of work…. He acquired all that he has by taking aesthetic possession. 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.” (Dike Blair, ‘A Reflection or Two’ Parkett, No. 72, 2004, pp. 98-99) Prince has an instinctive ability to point out things to the viewer that were already on view in the culture as a whole, but are generally overlooked. In the present lot, the artist presents a beautiful and expertly executed painting which focuses the viewer’s attention upon the idea of a nurse which has been as fetishised in the culture and this sub-genre of romance novels. The Nurse Paintings relate directly to the work Prince has consistently done throughout his career within the medium of photography and now in paintings, which is to draw our attention to the ‘objects’ of our desire, from watches to cowboys to nurses, and as a result to question what it is about these things that fascinate us so much.

  • 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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Surfing Nurse

Inkjet print and acrylic on canvas.
162.5 x 106.7 cm. (64 x 42 in).

Signed, titled and dated ‘R Prince SURFING NURSE 2003’ on the overlap.

£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for £2,148,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm