This winter, Sadie Coles presents a shifting, multifarious collection of works courtesy of Richard Prince, exploring notions of the human form, consumption, and value through the depiction and obfuscation of explicit content.
This is Prince’s first exhibition in London since his 2008 retrospective show, Continuation, at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. He is commonly known for his satirical images regarding American popular culture, emphasizing clichéd subject matter as somewhat nonsensical, particularly in his famous Marlboro cowboys photographs. He is also well known for his corruption of De Kooning’s woman series in which he conflates his paintings with pornographic imagery, playing with the idea of the representation of women throughout history, and challenging De Kooning’s work in a highly controversial manner.
Standing in stark, almost ironic contrast with the building’s virgin, white-washed walls are the harsh, sensual tones of Prince’s combination of ink-jet prints and paint. Many of the images have been distorted, turning the nude women he features into bizarrely evocative, abstracted forms. The once beautiful women who lie beneath Prince’s paintings are deformed into monstrous forms, challenging modern day perceptions of beauty.
As Prince has progressed in his career, his works have become significantly bolder and more challenging. Embracing photography and found objects, he creates females with no faces, only genitals and sexual organs. This perhaps reflects the objectification of women in modern society, while nodding towards notions of censorship and commodity culture.
Richard Prince, Untitled, (2012), via Sadie Coles
The fourteen canvases on display however, do not all consist of distorted yet paradoxically stereotypically beautiful women. Some of these women still remain ‘whole’ and relatively untouched in appearance, but instead have simply been censored, blocked out by shards of polywrap CD and DVD packages that still bear the names of the films and albums they came from. Drawing a firm line between commodity and human form, Prince’s depictions shift their ground again, embodying a stark attack on objectification and value.
At the same time, Prince’s use of polywrap also emphasizes notions of censorship. Perhaps marking reference to the Parent’s Resource Music Center trials of the early 1990’s, and the hotly debated notions of prurience in modern music contained within, Prince references a fearful aversion to confrontation with sex and the human form in popular culture. While mainstream celebrities are deemed glamorous and intriguing to a point of near fanatical obsession and desire, images of nudity and sexuality are still viewed as taboo and unacceptable; the fact the models’ faces are hidden suggests they should be ashamed, but simultaneously removes their rights to a human identity. They are merely another attractive body.
Throughout his career, Richard Prince has continually challenged clichés, ironies and paradoxes that exist in society. The current collection he holds at Sadie Coles does not fail to do the same via effectively reiterating his purpose as an artisan and furthering his commentary on Western ideals in a highly successful, visual medium.
Gallery Site [Sadie Coles]
Artist’s Website [Richard Prince]