14 March – 19 April 1997
White Cube presented a series of raw and energetic new paintings and drawings by Richard Prince. Some consisting of a tumble of blocky shapes, graphic doodles, and accretions of painterly ‘cells’ (some brushed on by hand in thick, blunt strokes), others made using silk-screen printing, with computer drawings and fabric swatches as their base image. At first, these new subjective and gestural works appear qualitatively different from the impassive deadpan appropriations that we had come to expect from Prince. From the late 1970s, Prince culled images from popular culture; and is best known for his super-cool ‘borrowings’ of Marlboro men on horseback, riding into the sunset. His theft from magazines and movies, his use of text and logos cropped out of advertising, his plundering of New Yorker cartoons, and his jokes, silk-screened or hand-written across vast colour-field paintings, all attest to his raw material being in and of the world.
On closer view, perhaps, these more recent paintings are not so different; in their impacted forms, cell-like structures and dirty graphic whorls, we do not find expressive originality, but traces of Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Cy Twombly; Prince’s works suggest a synthesis of received images from American painting of the 1950s. By treating Abstract Expressionism as a ready-made collection of styles from which to scavenge images to be reconfigured in his paintings, he undercuts its claim to authentic experience.
In the adjoining space, Prince exhibited a series of biro drawings. These faces, taken perhaps from newspaper images, are obsessively delineated and lend a ‘psychotic edge’ to the strange expressions that hover somewhere between smiles and grimaces.