Richard Prince’s Early Photography

Explore Richard Prince’s early photographic works at Gagosian’s NYC gallery. Uncover his innovative rephotography technique and cultural commentary.

Renowned contemporary artist Richard Prince‘s groundbreaking early works are set to grace the walls of Gagosian’s 522 West 21st Street gallery in New York, with an exhibition titled “Richard Prince: Early Photography, 1977–87,” opening its doors on March 9, 2024. Following its successful presentation at Gagosian’s London locations in 2023, this exhibition promises to offer New Yorkers a rare glimpse into the formative years of Prince’s artistic journey.

The collection features a selection of Prince’s iconic photographs, including his celebrated cowboy, girlfriend, and advertisement series, with some pieces making their debut in the city. Notably, the exhibition includes the complete series of “The Entertainers” (1982–83), a seldom-seen compilation of manipulated photographs capturing the gritty allure of New York’s Times Square during the 1980s.

Accompanying these visual treasures are archival materials showcasing the artist’s writings and source materials, shedding light on Prince’s creative process and inspirations. Of particular interest are artifacts from his tenure in the tear-sheet department at Time magazine, previously unseen by the public.

At the core of Prince’s artistic practice lies his innovative approach to “rephotography,” a technique he initiated in 1977. By appropriating images from advertising and lifestyle publications, Prince challenged conventional notions of authorship and originality, effectively redefining the landscape of contemporary art. His manipulation of pre-existing images serves as a commentary on America’s cultural tapestry, blending mainstream humor with subcultural motifs to reflect the complexities of national identity.

Among the featured works is Prince’s provocative self-portrait from 1980, where he explores themes of alienation and self-perception through a striking visual juxtaposition. Additionally, his portrayal of the American cowboy archetype in “Untitled (Cowboy)” (1980–84) exemplifies his penchant for merging cultural tropes with individualistic expression.

Throughout the exhibition, Prince interrogates societal constructs of masculinity and consumerism, inviting viewers to reconsider the authenticity of visual representation in mass media. By juxtaposing images of models and advertisements with his distinctive artistic vision, Prince challenges viewers to question the inherent biases and motivations behind commercial imagery.

Moreover, Prince’s meticulous organization of images, such as “Untitled (Three Women Looking in the Same Direction)” (1980) and “Criminals and Celebrities” (1986), reflects a sociological curiosity akin to that of an anthropologist. His curation anticipates the era of digital categorization and artificial intelligence, underscoring the evolving nature of photographic interpretation in the digital age.

As visitors immerse themselves in Prince’s early photographic oeuvre, they are invited to contemplate the intersection of art, culture, and identity—a testament to the enduring relevance of Prince’s pioneering vision.

“Richard Prince: Early Photography, 1977–87” promises to be a thought-provoking journey through the formative years of one of contemporary art’s most influential figures, offering audiences a rare opportunity to witness the evolution of a visionary artist.

© Richard Prince

Photos: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

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