An exhibition uniting Richard Prince’s Protest Paintings (1986 – 1994) will be on view at Skarstedt London from 15 October 2013. Protest Paintings is the artist’s sixth solo exhibition at Skarstedt. A detailed catalogue will be published on the Protest Paintings, marking the first publication to be devoted solely to this exceptional body of work.
Rising to prominence in the 1980s, Richard Prince is a celebrated pioneer of a critical approach to art making. Appropriating images and text from advertising and popular culture, his photographs, sculptures and paintings explore ideas of American identity and consumerism, whilst simultaneously challenging ideas of authorship and the privileged status of the unique artwork. Prince has been the subject of solo exhibitions at leading institutions worldwide, including Serpentine Gallery, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and IVAM, Valencia amongst others.
Together for the first time in a comprehensive exhibition and painted on a vertical canvas in the shape of a protest placard, the Protest Paintings alternate between monochromatic minimalism and richly layered colourful abstraction. Incorporating recycled jokes, printed and hand-written, as well as mined pattern details silkscreened onto the canvas, these paintings are characteristic of Prince’s tenet of appropriation. A mainstay in his art, the classic one-liners offer comic respite, whilst also challenging the high/low art divide. Masking a menacing truth behind a veil of humour, the jokes are subversive in their purpose. As the curator
Nancy Spector writes in an essay on Prince: ‘humor is a serious business.’ 1
Featuring paintings from public and private collections, the exhibition demonstrates the breadth of Prince’s creativity in this singular body of work. The range of paintings on show includes monochrome canvases with printed and handwritten jokes, patterned canvases with block text and brightly coloured abstract compositions overlaid with graffiti and drip marks.
Purposefully ambiguous, the scrawled slogans resist interpretation, enacting their very own protest through language. Refusing to conform to the standards of the art value system, the Protest Paintings seemingly channel the spirit of the 1960’s counterculture, a defining era to which Prince bore witness.