187

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London

Richard Prince
B. 1949
UNTITLED
signed on a label affixed to the stretcher
acrylic and ink jet on canvas
196.9 by 149.9 cm. 77 by 59 in.
Executed in 2010.
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Provenance

Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

Exhibited

London, Almine Rech Gallery, Richard Prince: The Fug, September - November 2011

Catalogue Note

As part of Richard Prince’s most iconic body of work, Untitled powerfully deconstructs and interrogates romanticised images that have shaped American identity and contemporary ideals of masculinity and femininity. The Girlfriends series provocatively examines the ephemeral world portrayed in biker magazines such as Easy-rider and Iron Horse, thus Prince ingeniously appropriates popular imagery in a poignant articulation of the binary between high and low culture. In the present work scantily clad women posing with shiny motorcycles are captured on film through Prince’s characteristic photographic qualities of hazy focus, dark lighting and stiff poses. Untitled further exhibits a sheer diversity of media intrinsic to Prince’s oeuvre, for here photographs are collaged on canvas in a manner that recalls the roaring advertising culture of the seventies and eighties. The theatrical, Hollywood-esque women statically reclining in the present composition allude to serious questions about desire, the male gaze and female agency, for these women are not classically nude, but they are naked—stripped, undressed and unveiled.

Through an undeniable sense of provocation and raw sexual potency, Prince vigorously re-contextualises such gendered issues for a contemporary audience. The notions of consumption, desire and eroticism intrinsic to Prince’s Girlfriends series is undoubtedly reminiscent of Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude series, which similarly visualises the empowered American libido and the notion of sex in a profoundly consumer society. Yet of Prince’s work, writer and curator Carol Squiers crucially asserts, "the women he portrays posit themselves as outlaws and individualists. But, ironically, the way they attain outlaw status most often is by displacing their sexuality for men to admire. So, when the biker chicks go riding off into the sunset, they’re topless on a Harley Davidson. The women Prince chooses never achieve the seamless images of movie stars or fashion models; there’s something smutty and disreputable about them, they remain a patch-work of wishes and desires” (Carol Squiers, ‘Is Richard Prince a Feminist’, Art in America, November 1993, online). Whether the women depicted in Untitled are deflecting unwelcome stares or inwardly musing, Prince’s photographs ultimately implicate three parties: the viewer, the reclining, topless girls, and the artist himself. Together they participate in a complex performance of gazes that operates within a largely invented code of masculine idealism and pioneering Americanism that dates back to the Nineteenth-Century. Indeed, Untitled conveys the sexually charged imagery and raw emotion inherent to Post-War America, establishing Prince as the ultimate provocateur and undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of his generation.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London