Richard Prince (b. 1949)
Untitled (de Kooning)
acrylic and inkjet on canvas
86 ¼ x 118 in. (219.1 x 299.7 cm.)
Painted in 2007.
Gladstone Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
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Lot Essay

“It was time to pay homage to an artist I really like. Some people worship at the altar – I believe in de Kooning.” —Richard Prince

Untitled (de Kooning), executed in 2007, is a superb example of Richard Prince's famous de Kooning series, a group of works in which the artist hones his signature style of appropriation art to the finest - and sharpest - of edges. In an act of simultaneous desecration and homage, Prince has, by way of a complex, multi-layered process, profoundly altered and subverted a classic de Kooning drawing of three women figures. Prince's interventions, which render three monumental, inscrutable figures hovering in an indeterminate peach and purple space, continue de Kooning's subversion of the art historical convention of the alluring female nude. They also further Prince's distinctive practice of re-presenting "found" images in his paintings, as in his much beloved "cowboy" and "nurse" paintings. Untitled (de Kooning) expands Prince's palette of appropriated material beyond commercial or popular imagery and into the realm of fine art, and thus in a contradiction typical of Prince's work, blurring any distinction between the realms of "high" and "low" art.

Prince began by sketching, painting, and collaging photographic material - primarily sourced from adult magazines - over a reproduction of the original drawing. This process obscures the original form of de Kooning's figures, building hybrid or hermaphroditic characters defined by both the approximating, gestural lines of paint as well as the softer photographic imagery. The resulting collage was subsequently massively enlarged and laserjet-printed on canvas, creating further distance from the source materials, and finally painted over with sweeping gestural brushstrokes which clearly recall de Kooning's painterly technique.

Although Prince's interferences at first seem disruptive, his techniques are perhaps not so distant from de Kooning's original practice - the abstract artist dabbled with collage himself, an innovative aspect of his painting that Prince greatly admires. 'I've always loved de Kooning's women paintings. When he collaged the Camel cigarette "T-zone" smile onto the heads of his women, it was the beginning of Pop art. That's like 1953-54? That's just my opinion.' (R. Prince quoted in 'Everyone Knows This is Nowhere', in Modern Painters, 18 September 2007). This layering of artistic gestures introduces a conceptual interrogation of notions of artistic authorship and aura, and of the current day practice of creating endless reproductions of supposedly unique works of art. Forceful and enigmatic, Untitled (de Kooning) is a masterful and sophisticated consummation of Richard Prince's most iconic and fascinating work.

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