Why Did Richard Prince Cross The Road?

November 11, 2013 • Culture

Sometimes when I walk into a gallery and I see someone’s work, I think to myself, “Gee, I wish I had done that.” I remember thinking that if I had seen someone make the hand-written joke and call it their work, I would have said, “I wish I had done that.”

-Richard Prince to Kim Gordon, on his seminal Jokes series


Since the mid-1970s, Richard Prince has been mining contemporary photography, ad campaigns, softcore porn, the art of Ed Ruscha and William de Kooning— and to everyone’s recollection, some rather ribald, collective conscious-engraved one-liners—for his own work. He’s undeniably successful—a Marlboro photograph of his sold for $1.2 million in 2005, setting a new precedent for photographic auction sales—and undeniably clever. He appropriates, and in the process, gives mass culture the mark of ‘art.’

Tonight at Nahmad Contemporary—the Madison Avenue gallery run by 23-year-old art collecting prince Joseph Nahmad—Richard Prince: Monochromatic Jokes will open. The show, with works created between 1987 and 1994, includes 16 single-colored, large-scale joke paintings on loan from private collectors. “I never had a penny to my name so I changed my name” reads one; another: “The way she looks in the morning! She ran after the garbage man and said, ‘Am I too late for the garbage?’ He said, ‘ No. Jump in.’” It’s the first exhibition of the artist’s joke paintings in 15 years, and a rare display of a long since decentralized group of works.


Richard Prince: Monochromatic Jokes will run through January 18, 2014.

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