Set against a brushy, diaphanous red, the sultry eyes of Richard Prince's Everglade Nurse peer out at us from the corner of this glowing canvas. From behind a pale pink mask and a dripping surface, we hear the voices of a vixen, a servant and a virgin. Embodying a mélange of sexual fantasies, she serves to both tantalize and challenge that which we crave.
Dating from 2003, Everglade Nurse comes to us from a series marked by the motif of the seductive nurse and Prince's return to a more painterly form of artistic expression. Leaving behind the hijacked photographs and stenciled jokes that had been the cornerstones of his 1980s fame, Prince delved into his extensive collection of naughty nurse literature and, using the coquettes of their covers, he created a group of erotic yet psychologically charged works. Offering a host of female clichés from the virginal and submissive to the regimented and maternal, the skimpy uniforms and curvy figures served as the backbone for the artist's new project. Transferring their images onto his canvases, Prince would manipulate their form underneath a hazy film of gestural and frothing magentas, wines, and greens to produce pulp nurses that served to both excite and discomfort.
In Everglade Nurse, Prince's bleeding colors course and flow through the layers of the canvas, their air undeniably sexy but occasionally punctured by ominous palpitations. Trapped behind an obscuring mask, there is a sadness behind the nurse's long lashes for she embodies both a fantasy and repressed sexuality. Denied the power of communication, both name and mouth veiled, she looks at us through a lurid sea of red, seeming far away, as though possibly a dream. Drawn from his racy paperback collection, Prince brings us one of the ciphers of female sexuality; she is accessible yet forbidden, wholesome yet supremely intimate. By nature a provocateur, Prince serves us a side of reality with our dose of fantasy, forcing us to question the inherent gender implications that come with the erotic female who is simultaneously a cool professional. What does it say about our society, our roles and our aspirations when the object of male desire is a muzzled 1950's pin-up? Born in 1968, into a generation of anti- war marches and student protests, Prince was raised on the ethos of rebellion. Each one of his series, though vastly different in both content and aesthetics, serves to destabilize the realities of his viewers, provoking them to rethink and question traditional standards and mores. The Duchamp of the current era, Prince is the master of relocating the familiar and thus, testing our definitions of art, commerce and culture. The nurses revisit many themes that have been present since the onset of Prince's career- the manipulation of appropriated images, the allure of mass culture and the inflammation of gender norms.
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