selected images and text Richard Prince

Text as appears in Prince, R & Sante, L, 2003 , Richard Prince , Phaidon, London. Some photos are from here and also Prince, R & Bürgi, B, 2002 , Richard Prince: paintings, photographs , Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit.

Richard Prince (RP) ‘…I grew up in the suburbs…no one wore cool clothes. I had never seen a white levis jacket or a small trim black suit with a purple t-shirt before. These things became important to me, for me. They were signs, signals, things that didn’t need to be explained. I knew what they meant right away. What they looked like, what they sounded like…I knew they were cool, and what was great…It was incredible how important hair became to a teenager.’ (I can really relate to this)

RP ‘Bad taste? Yeah…I don’t know. The way people dress and look. When people don’t care. Taste…Whats beautiful, whats ugly? Its kind of a silly question. I mean maybe thats why Greenburg burnt out. He cared too much. The paramount thing is not to care. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. The chicken or the egg. Who knows if it’s popular? More than 50%? If it becomes a fashion or a trend? As for kitsch: the answer is a revolving door. The answer is blowing in the wind. There is no such thing. Its what makes you feel good. It’s what makes you feel bad. It’s feel. You feel. Laughing and screaming. It used to be bad. Now it’s good. but it’s still bad. It turns. I turn it. I turned it. Maybe it had already turned. Turns out…Turns out it was always there. Always there. That sounds like the soul.

RP ‘What’s in a picture is real. What it looks like is what is is. You look at  a photograph in your lap. Sitting down. It’s usually in a book or a magazine. You usually turn a page. The best photographs are sexual. Photographs are sexy.’

RP ‘ You know the biggest difference between us and the people who went before ‘us’ is the actions. I mean ‘they;…Pollock, Rothko, Newman, Picasso, Duchamp, Klien – yeah, Yves – they didn’t have to live with people fucking speculatiing on what they put out.’

RP ‘I’m at the dead-end dirt road reading skin magazines. Tits. That’s what I like. Tits.’

RP ‘The trouble with finishing something. You know somebody is gonna take it away and you’re left with what? Money. Yeah money.’

Visually,they are often common place; we’ve seen them before, and even if we haven’t, it doesn’t take us long to digest them. But the image must be sufieciently banal in its subject matter to fall away so that all that remains is the question, ‘What is seductive, alluring in this picture?’

We’re ready and willing to suspend our disbelief. We literally invest the work with more than is actually there.

In his goal of showing others the quality of images that he finds so tantalising. Prince chooses to represent these images because he himself is seduced by them. There is never any cynicism in this activity. The presentation of the act of seduction is deadpan and simple, so that it becomes a straightforward re-enactment for the viewer. The ultimate statement that ‘these pictures exist’.

By side stepping a straightforward response to questions of intentionality, Prince refuses to close down meaning, or even to suggest any particular goal towards which the work might be heading…Ultimately it is this characteristic of  ambiguity that is the defining feature of his work.

Prince’s work points out the emptiness that lies beneath the surface of the commodity image.

In Prince’s case, the act of appropriation consisted of simply re-photographing the images he found in magazines. By cropping, or photographing only parts of an image, subtly and almost invisibly he made the pictures reveal themselves to viewers in a very different way.

This work, an appropriated photograph of the child actress Brooke Shields, incorporates aspects of humor, the con game, the tragic, the transgressive and ultimately the deathly. The picture was originally taken by the commercial photographer Gary Grossman. Prince first came across it when he was working for Time Life in the early 80’s. The ten year old Shields is naked, standing provocatively in a luxurious bathtub, her outstretched arms resting on its sides. Her body oiled, like that of a porn star and her face is made up to look like that of a young woman. Swirling steam rises up to her knees, while semi-abstract Moore-like sculptural figures decorate the foreground and background. The angle of the photograph is an upward shot, which pornographically transforms the child into a woman-as-goddess-as-slut.

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