Richard Prince

(b. 1949)

About The Artist


One of the most acclaimed artists of his generation and arguably the most provocative, Richard Prince (born 1949) is best known for his works of appropriation, the artistic strategy that involves the borrowing, adaptation, or reproduction of existing artistic forms as the basis for fresh creation and commentary. In Prince’s case, his works explore the ubiquitous cultural iconography found in the realms of commercial art and mass-visual production.

A photographer, a painter, and a sculptor, Prince’s early thematic works include his seminal Cowboy series, begun in the early 1980s, in which Prince re-photographed cigarette advertisements featuring the mythic American cowboy. Such a keen eye for the symbols constituting the American cultural landscape prefigures his successive series such as his Nurses paintings, which draw inspiration from pulp fiction cover designs. In 1987 Prince embarked on a series of Monochromatic Jokes paintings—sleekly minimalist presentations of hackneyed wisecracks—which tackle the clichés of verbal folk culture.

Prince’s cool detachment isolates his finished products from the source materials they emulate. Instead of copies, they become strangely absent commentaries. Formally derivative, they transcend the commercial or prosaic aims of their predecessors through negation—a failure to deliver a message—thereby elucidating the artifice and aspirations which drive American cultural output. From these works to his latest project involving the manipulation of Instagram selfies, Prince has developed a body of work that serves not only as a penetrating examination of contemporary art history, but also as a trenchant critique of current social and cultural mores.

Prince, Richard. Spiritual America. New York: Aperture, 1989. Print. Spector, Nancy, and Richard Prince. Richard Prince. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2007. Print. Fogle, Douglas. "Richard Prince." Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections. Ed. Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2005. Print. Schjeldahl, Peter. "The Joker: Richard Prince at the Guggenheim." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 15 Oct. 2007. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.