Richard Prince has been called a pervert, a hack, a genius and the “coolest artist alive.” Love him or hate him, the 65-year-old American painter and photographer gets people talking. Today, that conversation is circling around the debut of his latest exhibit entitled “Richard Prince: Fashion” on view at the Nahmad Contemporary in New York City. For his second solo presentation in the gallery, Prince zeroes in on his iconic Fashion series, shot between 1982-84. Nahmad is the first gallery to show the work together in its entirety.
What makes Prince a radical, and some might say radically insolent, artist is his method. Since the 1970s, he’s made a name for himself by way of appropriation art, a practice that can be traced all the way back to the days of Cubism in the early 1900s. Essentially, Prince re-photographs pre-existing images and then alters them to create something new. In doing this, he attempts to reveal the underbelly of society and ultimately poses the question, “What is reality?” In the case of the current exhibit, Prince appropriates fashion advertisements in order to take a stab at consumerism and conventional gender roles.
Comparatively, this is a tamer exhibit than his last presentation. In the fall at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, the artist showed “New Portraits,” a collection of 37 lifted Instagram images, inkjet-printed onto canvas and accompanied by controversial remarks that raised more than a few eyebrows. You’d think the social platform might have reveled in the media buzz, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, Instagram temporarily disabled Prince’s account when he posted Spiritual America, his appropriated Gary Gross picture of a naked and prepubescent Brooke Shields.
“With Richard’s work, the formal beauty is the first thing that strikes you, but the reason it resonates and stays with you is in understanding how radical the work is,” said Nahmad Contemporary owner Joseph Nahmad to T Magazine. “In pirating a joke or an image from an ad and calling it his own, at that time, he redefined the rules of art.”
“Richard Prince: Fashion” is open March 3 through April 18 at Nahmad Contemporary in New York City.