Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2001, Too Close forms part of Richard Prince’s Joke Painting series. Since beginning his career in the late 1970’s, Prince has engaged in the use of a wide range of media encompassing photography, painting and sculpture. This experimentation with technique reflects the artist's endeavour to find a perfect form of representation for his creativity. ‘People use photographs as visual language, to provide information, to supply a window, to supplement text. Most editorial photographs sit beside a whole page of text. They work together. But what happens when you just hang a photograph alone? People look at them and see them on an aesthetic level. The problem with my photographs, when they were hanging up, was that there weren’t those levels to look at… But after that, what are you left with? I don’t think the author of those pictures, meaning me—knew or wanted to know what was going on. There was a crisis for me, in terms of what one believed, what one thought art was, and what one wanted to see art be about. I was fairly dissatisfied at the time, I wasn’t seeing the kind of art I wanted to see. So the logical thing to do was to make it. It’s what happens when you give up. I gave up what I was doing, I gave up making art that looked like art.’ (Richard Prince by Marvin Heiferman, Bomb- Artists in conversation) This lot falls into his painting collection: carried out using acrylic on canvas, Too Close features a centred, justified and monochrome text on a grey canvas. The light, largely pastel colour palette contrasts with Prince’s earlier, bolder paintings and lends levity to the final outcome that compliments the light-hearted theme of the work.

    Prince’s early paintings are celebrated for their successful appropriation of advertisement images and photographs from the early 1970’s. The use of satirical one-liners, taken from book, magazines and other literary influences, are paired with powerful images and recognisable photographs to explore the relationship between image and language. At once superimposing and merging the two media, the artist presents a multi-faceted yet cohesive amalgamation of concept and conception. The beginning of this creative process featured rigidly composed, monochromatic and austere works. ‘With the jokes I can point to them and at least say they’re jokes, which they are. That’s what I think is going to make people uncomfortable. Because it’s like a Beckett endgame. If anything, I have an uneasy feeling people will like them. Now people can say, “Oh, he’s the artist who does the jokes.” They can finally latch onto something, which I think people like to do. And if that happens, how am I going to get out of that situation?’ (Richard Prince by Marvin Heiferman, Bomb- Artists in conversation).

    The text is stencilled in capitalised font and occupies the central third of the canvas. The strong design, focused on symmetry and regulated composition, enables comparisons with the textual work of Ed Ruscha, where the artist’s use of capitals, enveloping consonants and repeated vowels result in the creation of an abstract shape rather than focusing on their literary meaning. The multi-faceted value of the Joke Paintings lies in this amalgamation of the abstract and the conceptual: from a distance the canvas relies on shape and proportion yet, on closer inspection, finds conceptual possibilities within the elements that form the text itself. In a 2000 interview with Julie L. Belcove, Prince says the Joke Paintings are 'what I wanted to become known for.' When asked to identify the artistic genre of his Jokes, Prince responded, 'the Joke paintings are abstract. Especially in Europe, if you can't speak English.' His easy, almost blithe explanation reflects the theme of his work and ironically highlights its intrinsic contradictions. '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.' (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) The jokes, despite their comical and satirical quality, reflect the creative process of the artist. Constantly changing and progression, changing in inspiration and presentation, they reflect the complex qualities of the human psyche and artistic talent. The connections and inter-relations between the Joke Paintings do not create a sense of repetition but rather of sequence and evolution. The present lot reveals his hunger for artistic discourse, engaging in dialogue with the viewer as well as forming associations with his predecessors and enabling the use of his own art as inspiration, in its clear and concrete notions.

  • 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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Too Close

acrylic on canvas
137.8 x 427.4 cm (54 1/4 x 168 1/4 in.)
Signed and dated 'R Prince 2001-02' on the overlap.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £422,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm