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Known as a critic and commentator of American consumer culture, including movies, advertisements, cartoons, and popular jokes, Richard Prince is a painter based in New York. As of 2001, he has a studio in a 1960s prefabricated house in Rensselaerville. In February 2005 in Los Angeles, coinciding with the Oscar Awards, Prince had an exhibition titled “The Check Paintings”, which incorporated canceled checks from friends and celebrities.

Born in the Panama Canal Zone, Prince moved to Los Angeles in 1967 when he was an aspiring painter and took a day job illustrating cartoons. He worked in the basement of the Time-Life Building, where he clipped articles from magazines to send to staff writers. At the end of the day, he was left with a pile of ads for products like watches, liquor, cigarettes, and cars, which he began to re-photograph, crop and enlarge.

He was a leader in the movement of “Appropriation Art” in the 1980s, reflecting his exposure to advertising. He created a series from 1980 to 1984 in which he reworked the Marlboro cowboy ads, by re-photographing the ads without the text and blowing them up to nearly life-size. His later works combined cartoons and jokes into his paintings.

In the mid-1990s, Prince began to paint in an Abstract Expressionist style, many featuring circular forms that look like tangled balls of yarn. Beneath them are sentences: “Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means your (sic) in the wrong house, that’s what it means,” reads 1996′s The Canal Zone II.

Richard Prince, has recently created a series of paintings of white-uniformed nurses based on the covers of pulp-fiction paperbacks from the ’50s and ’60s. He collected titles such as Surfing Nurse, Man-Crazy Nurse, Registered Nurse, Park Avenue Nurse, Washington Nurse, Tender Nurse, and Nympho Nurse. He transferred their covers onto canvas, often manipulating them in the process, changing the colors or format or matching a nurse from one cover with the title from another. He then layered drippy paint in hues of magenta, wine red, and deep purple on the canvases.

“Prince readily acknowledges that the icons and desires he explores in his work are not just out there but in here as well. As his art has hovered closer to his own obsessions, it has become both less subversive and more seductive, a revelation of what happens when irony turns into its opposite (Fineman)”.

Sources include:
Christie’s New York, Catalogue of 11/15/2001
Carol Vogel, ‘A Connoisseur of the Vast Unnoticed’, “The New York Times”, December 31, 2004.
Mia Fineman, “The Pleasure Principle, Richard Prince’s post-pulp art takes a new step.”, Slate website, Oct. 30, 2003

Biography from the Archives of AskART