Artful Grit at Gagosian

Richard Prince has come west. Riding into Beverly Hills with a posse of cowboys shouldn’t be surprising. It is perhaps the most natural way the elder statesman of appropriation art should stake his claim in Los Angeles. We are, after all, not only the epicenter of American image broadcasting but also the NASDAQ of artificiality. Prince fits like a glove.

“RICHARD PRINCE: Cowboys”
Installation view
Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Richard Prince’s painterly paradigm is to scan and enlarge source material that is tinged or saturated with socio/political/sexual meaning. These enlargements are then decoratively painted over, over painted and outlined with affected gestural brush strokes that index art, artfulness and artifice.

RICHARD PRINCE
Untitled (Cowboy), 2012
Inkjet and acrylic on canvas
59 3/8 x 36 inches (150.8 x 91.4 cm)
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The Gagosian exhibition is populated with all manner of cowpoke, sheriff and outlaw. Whether mounted on a galloping horse or busting through the double swinging doors of a saloon, these cowboys are all icon. Bluster, machismo and archetype heroism are all on display. But character for Prince is outline and not detail. The best paintings are those that demonstrate the tension between enlarged color halftones and fey machismo of daubed paint.

“RICHARD PRINCE: Cowboys”
Installation view
Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The composition of nearly all of the paintings owes much to the format of dime store novels. You can easily project titles and author’s names unto the large expanses of painted skies that define the bottom-weighted compositions. In fact there are a couple where some original text bleeds through, a pleasant nod to the source material.

RICHARD PRINCE
Untitled (Cowboy), 2012
Inkjet and acrylic on canvas
80 1/4 x 48 inches (203.8 x 121.9 cm)
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Whether you like or even tolerate Prince’s conceptual premise or not, the exhibition succeeds in embracing an unapologetic desire for decorative pleasure that still earns a snob’s street cred. An art speak version of having your cake and eating it too.

Richard Prince, Cowboy at Gagosian Beverly Hills through April 6th, 2013

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, March 10th, 2013

also by Mario M. Muller

Leave a Reply