Interviewer: Have you always been funny?
Richard Prince: No, I'm not so funny. I like it when other people are
funny. It's hard being funny. Being funny is a way to survive. Richard Prince ("Like A Beautiful Scar On Your Head", Modern Painters, Autumn 2002, Volume 15, Number 3 )
Since the late 1970s, Richard Prince has been mining images from the mass media, drawing on sources such as advertisements, entertainment, and cartoons for material. By isolating and removing these images from their intended context, Prince examines various codes of representation that often explore gender and class. One of the original Appropriation artists, Prince engages in a practice that has consistently questioned the tropes of authenticity and originality in art making.
The central image in this work features a seductive woman and two business men; these characters are used repeatedly throughout Prince's work, as is the joke included in the image: "What a kid I was. I remember practicing the violin in front of a roaring fire. My old man walked in. Ma was furious. We didn't have a fireplace."
Prince began using jokes and cartoons in his work around 1987, during which time he discovered Whitney Darrow's cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s, which were published in the New Yorker. The cartoons that Prince appropriates are often seductive images that depict affairs, satirizing the marital morals of the time. The joke series take many forms: some are handwritten, some silkscreened, and others include cartoons or fragments of drawings.
According to Prince, "I first started to re-draw cartoons that were in different magazines. I called them jokes at first. I realized I was wrong in the calling so I got rid of the image and concentrated on the punch line. I started to buy joke books. I started to hang out in the 'humor' section of book stores."
Richard Prince's work is found in numerous public collections including The Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Dallas Art Museum; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. A retrospective of his work is currently on view at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
75 by 59 in. 190 by 150 cm.
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
Jay Gorney Fine Art, New York