Richard Prince, 'Untitled'

Richard Prince, 'Untitled'

Richard Prince (born 1949)
'Untitled'
1983
C-type colour photograph
Museum no. E.334-1994
Courtesy Barbara Gladstone

The Photograph
This image is a cropped and enlarged image of a cosmetics advert taken by Prince in 1983. The image is blurred and grainy due to the image structure of the original magazine advert and its enlargement in the photograph. Prince may also have taken the photograph slightly out of focus. The vibrant colours of the image the unnatural colour of the woman's hand remind us of the artificiality of the advert and adverts in general. Prince has cropped the image so that not only is there no written advertising but also the make-up compact and reflected eye seem grotesque and undesirable out of their original context. Prince's artistic input into this work is his selection and recontextualising of it from a mass produced magazine into the more rarified arena of fine art. He calls into question many traditional assumptions about the nature of art: Is Prince's (re)photograph the 'original' art object, does he glorify or criticise commercial photography, where is the invention in his work and who is the author?

The Photographer
In 1975 Richard Prince began to use photographs in his art work. He collected magazine advertising photographs and created collages, combining them with text. He made a shift in techique in 1977 when he began re-photographing advertising photographs. The image might be re-cropped and enlarged, out of focus, in colour or black and white. These are relatively subtle technical transformations but raise many questions relating to the status and intention of the work.

The re-photographing questions authorship; can we accept Prince as the author of the images even though they are essentially direct appropriations of ready-made images? Do we read the images as adverts, as fine art, a combination of the two or a critique of both? How much emphasis should we place on Prince's choice of images; did he have an emotional response to them; do they reveal aspects of the artist's identity? Image appropriation was particularly dominant in the work of young artists in the late 1970s and 1980s. Artists such as Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine and Sarah Charlesworth, in different ways, deconstructed existing imagery often drawn from commercial graphics to create new discourses for and questionings of fine art practice. It is interesting to note that photography, more than any other medium, was used to exemplify the new art theories in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Processes and Techniques
A C-type colour photograph is printed from a colour negative rather than a colour transparency (R-type).

This photograph can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box EDUC 14a.