Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gladstone Gallery, New York; Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I have never thought of making anything new. I make it again. I am very much against trying to make anything new in a modernist approach. I think you can do only something for yourself”
    Richard Prince

    Richard Prince has explored, examined and experimented with the world of appropriation through the various channels of photography, painting, sculpture, writing and graphic design. He is among the most highly regarded and influential artists working today who has paved the way for artists such as Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine and Barbara Kruger. Prince started his career working for TIME/LIFE in the late 1970s, and it is his exposure to mass media, advertising and entertainment images that led to his first artworks, in 1977. For example, he re-photographed pictures of living rooms that appeared in the New York Times magazine: “Instead of tearing them out of the magazine and collaging them onto another surface it occurred to me if I took my camera and ‘shot’ them, sent off the chrome to a commercial lab and blew the negative up to make a real photograph, that it would change the way they originally came out” (the artist in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones in K. Rattee, et al., eds., Richard Prince: America Goes To War ... Swimming In The Afternoon…, London: Serpentine Gallery, 2008).

    Prince began making his Joke Paintings in 1985. The earliest examples were solely text-based works on paper; later, he silk-screened the text onto monochrome canvases, such as in Another Opinion, 1989. The jokes themselves are banal, well-worn bad jokes abstracted from their original context, such as cartoons. The irony and humour have all but disappeared in the process of presenting them in the new context of painterly and conceptual art:

    “Some jokes are hand-written, others are silk-screened; the letters follow each other on a straight line or on a wavy line, are centered or placed at the bottom of the image, like captions, repeated, superimposed…Sometimes, the jokes are looped, as though they were told one after the other, as in stand-up comedy, and linked to one another with a simple ‘one more’, ’another one’ or ’okay’. At other times, a malfunction sees to occur, like a broken record, and the same joke is repeated twice on the same painting. In general, the same jokes are repeated from new series to the next on all possible supports.” (V. Pécoil, Richard Prince: Canaries in the Coal Mine, Oslo: Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 128).

    The present work, My Life as a Weapon (2007) consists of a collage of soft-porn photographs depicting women in seductive poses and various states of undress. The initial crudeness is obscured by flecks and blocks of blue, pink and yellow acrylic paint. The text is laid boldly on top of this chaotic blanket of colour and imagery; the large utilitarian lettering brings a rather Spartan calm to the composition. The presentation of the text, in block capitals and repeated three times, removes any semblance of the spontaneity of the joke. Like most of Prince’s joke paintings, the text in My Life as a Weapon draws on the traditional joke subjects such as family, lovers and spouses.

    Until the early 20th century, painting had predominately been concerned with creating forms and figures. Then, Duchamp and, later on, Warhol, brought into being the concept of the ready-made and appropriation. Prince’s work occupies both realms, recontextualising or manipulating the ready-made into more complex narrative structures, resulting in his rich and highly celebrated body of work.

    “The painted, as against the photographic, world of Richard Prince is neither preconceived nor harmonious, linear, stable or continuous. Instead, it is a place of discrepancy and displacement, of contradictions and misunderstandings (much like reality in general). We could even speak of the absurdity of these works, the zone where irreconcilable elements on the pictorial surface initiate the signification. Herein, the spectator is confronted by a confusing and enigmatic frame of reference. Indeed, Princes figurative paintings are about reconstructing reality, or fabricating parallel realities.” (Introduction to the exhibition Richard Prince: Canaries in the Coal Mine at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 20 January–29 April 2007)

  • 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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Ο ◆16

My Life as a Weapon

Acrylic and collage on canvas.
203.2 × 303.5 cm (80 × 119 1/2 in).
Signed and dated ‘R Prince 2007’ on the reverse.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £541,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

12 October 2011