Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

“Canal Zone” new paintings by Richard Prince at Gagosian Gallery, 24th Street, New York

Posted in Reviews by jeremygoldsmith on November 26, 2008


Larry Gagosian’s latest showing of recent paintings by Richard Prince is undoubtedly one of the most disappointing exhibitions I have seen this season. These new large scale works combine two of Prince’s most commercially successful series from recent years. The artist amalgamates themes and techniques from his “check book” and “porno” paintings with his “de Kooning-like” portrait paintings into unnecessarily large and hideous imagery that reminds the viewer both of messy and quickly painted German art from the 1980s and 90s and simply re-hashes of his own more recent work.


Walking into Gagosian’s 24th street gallery I was immediately impressed with the physical space. The grand expanse of white walls and freshly polished concrete floors creates a sense of anticipation and eagerness and I found myself excited with the prospect of seeing a show worthy of this “museum-like” space. Sadly, I was almost immediately disappointed. The three main rooms of the gallery are devoted entirely to these paintings, all nearly the same in scale. The imagery itself differs from painting to painting – some with a higher ratio of collaged “pin-ups” to painted figures and others feature more prominently rasta-like rocker collaged figures. In either event – the visual impact is the same.


Prince has been termed a “collector” for quite some time now – he uses, or more appropriately, appropriates images from varied sources, and pastes, prints or collages in other techniques these images on to his canvases. Like his “Nurse” paintings, Prince then obscures, alters and even paints over parts of the images transforming them, or re-configuring them to fit his own needs. The painted portions of the work remain loose and gestural as with his previous painted work, however, in these works he has even added Baldessari-like circular shapes to cover and conceal certain

elements of his figures’ faces. prince2

This technique along with the de Kooning and Picasso-esque figuration that he employs makes me feel as if Prince’s work has not truly evolved at all, but rather he has only re-assembled old appropriated imagery in a new format. Not only do I see this as somewhat boring and repetitive, but it makes me wonder if he has realised that he has a formula that works commercially and he is happier to make an “easy buck” than try and create something new and exciting like he did with his early photographs and “Joke” paintings.  


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