Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008
Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Richard Prince: Canaries in the Coal Mine, 2007, p. 43, no. 32, illustrated in colour.
For the Nurse Paintings, Prince, a renowned and obsessive bibliophile, took for his source his own extensive collection of trashy nurse fantasies. The cheap, throwaway titles and enticing covers that were designed to titillate, exerted an overwhelmingly seductive power over the artist. As Prince recalls: “With the Nurse paintings, I believe I started out just reading the paper. It just occurred to me that everyone needed a nurse. I collect books – basically I’m a bibliophile – and I had collected these nurse books. There’s a whole genre and I’d had them for years. I wanted to do something just white… But before I put them away, I made a mistake painting all this white – this is when I say I get lucky. After I had wiped off some of the painting, it looked like a mask on the nurse’s face and suddenly it was one of those moments. When I noticed that, I realised that was going to be the contribution to the image, to put a mask on these various nurse illustrations. It was a way of unifying and also talking about identity” (Richard Prince quoted in: Natalie Shukur, ‘Richard Prince,’ RusshMagazine, 2014, online resource).
To create these extraordinary works, Prince first scanned, enlarged and copied the tantalising book covers onto canvas using an ink jet print, removing the presence of the artist’s hand – a method that was hallmark of his earlier practice. Distancing his practice from the early photographs, however, Prince then altered the impersonal printed finish with lavish brushstrokes, heightening the brash connotations of the novel by sullying the glossy inkjet surfaces with instantly appealing, sensuous layers of drippy paint. Reserved and demure, everything about Untitled (Nurse) from her glossy blonde curls, her luscious eyelashes and intimate stare are designed to ooze sex appeal. The white surgical mask that covers her mouth, however, and the streams of crimson pigment that run down her eyes, mask and body is certainly more redolent of a femme-fatale, giving her a rather sinister look. Here her paint-splattered body and uniform mimics the heroic, gestural fury of Willem de Kooning’s erotic, overbearing women. As the desirability of the erotic subject in Untitled (Nurse) is grounded by the seriousness of this Abstract Expressionist connotation, she ultimately gains power as an image. In the same manner as de Kooning’s iconic Woman paintings, the present work oscillates between the polarities of beauty and horror, desire and fear, negating any single interpretation of this sultry vixen. In this way, Untitled (Nurse) is Prince at his absolute finest.
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