Executed in 2005, Growing Up embodies the witty dualism and visual ambiguity of Richard Prince's celebrated Joke paintings. Stencilled across the centre of the canvas, the 'joke' is surrounded by the printed paper collage of 'found' cheques, while the yellow painted ground is applied in rough graffiti-like strokes. Prince began the Joke paintings in 1987 while staying in Los Angeles. He worked with pre-stretched canvases, silk-screening individual jokes onto monochrome planes of colour, arranging the text across the centre of the picture plane so that each joke bisected the canvas regardless of its dimensions. Formulaic in design, the only variables were the joke, the proportion of the joke to the scale of the canvas, the size of the entire work and the colour. With his stripped down compositions and subversion of the artist's hand, Prince creates a painted parallel of the 'rephotography' for which he became so well known. The jokes themselves were taken from myriad sources: one liners and double entendres that were overplayed and overused by comedians, in films and on the stage. Repeated so often their originators were no longer attached to them, Prince's satirical appropriation elevates their banal humour into the sphere of high art.
In the present work, Prince has replaced the monochrome surface of the 1980s and 90s Joke paintings with coarse layers of pigment, collage and stencilled lettering, using the very fabric of the work to dramatise the joke that appears upon it. By contrasting the poverty of the speaker's youth ('I was so poor growing up') with the material constituents of the work (the high value bankers' cheques that make up its surface), the artist not only infuses his work with dramatic irony, but satirises the very concept of placing a monetary value on a work of art.
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