Richard Prince to open his seventh solo exhibition at Sadie Coles entitled Everyday, a body of recent paintings that expand his iconic Joke Paintings series.
In Everyday, Prince replicates the jokes of Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004), the renowned American stand-up comedian best known for disarming one-liners that captured an everyman humour in the banal or a self-deprecating loss of face. Prince, known for his collection of counter-cultural material, acquired an index of the comic’s jokes.
Just my luck I was at the airport when my ship came in is the joke repeated in many of the exhibition works, retraced verbatim across several paintings. Prince knowingly subjects the joke to scrutiny, the repetition adding to its hopeless melancholy. In other paintings, the roster of one-liners and throwaway gags at first sight deliver their intended punch. Yet reframed in abstract perpetuity on canvas the impact, like a joke repeated, inevitably wanes, in turn drawing into focus the latent clichés and inflections of society’s aspirations, deceptions, bigotries, sexism and inequalities.
Made during the pandemic, between 2019-2021, these works restage Dangerfield’s jokes in boldly-applied oil stick lettering across the cacophonous back catalogue of the comic’s stage notes from his later years: ‘a black and blue ballpoint pen psychotropic scrawl of automatic writing’. In recalibrating the notes as readymade collages, Prince draws into relief Dangerfield’s short-hand observations on contemporary life, both exposing and parodying received cultural associations and norms.
Mirroring the litany of impulsively collated notes, many of the paintings are layered with graffiti-like imagery and text that include repeated motifs from Prince’s own repertoire: from the Hippie Drawings, Protest Paintings, Cheque Paintings and High Times, that accumulate to form an altogether more cynical palimpsest portrayal of Americana and its identity. This extends through several works, in which the jokes appear to disintegrate entirely into variously barbed and suggestive phrases – such as respect, hearsay, sham, addict, NDA, blame.
One of America’s foremost artists working today, Prince’s oeuvre is recognised for his progressive and incisive use of appropriation – encompassing imagery and text drawn from advertisements, comics and mass-media – which he deploys conceptually as a means to unpick, critique and parody the cultural landscape of modern America.
First conceived in the early 1980s, the artist’s Joke Paintings are lifted from magazines such as The New Yorker and Playboy, books and comedy sketches, redrawn in multifarious styles: from economical monochromatic or dichromatic text on canvas that riff on the ascetic formal language of minimalism, Pop Art or commercial signage, to bold lettering effusively layered with collages and drawings. Throughout the Joke Paintings series, Prince stages an irreverent play on his own use of appropriation and challenge to conventional concepts of authorship; the best jokes succeed in their retelling by others, passing by word of mouth until their origins are ultimately obscured.
The exhibition coincides with the artist’s acclaimed survey exhibition, entitled SAME MAN, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, now on view until 10 April 2023. The project is the first presentation by Richard Prince in Scandinavia and features 89 works, many of which are from the artist’s own extensive archive.
Richard Prince, Everyday, 29th March – 5th May 2023, Private view: Wednesday 29 March, 6-8pm Sadie Coles HQ, 62 Kingly Street W1
About the artist
Richard Prince (b. 1949, Panama Canal Zone) had his first solo museum show in 1983 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, and has since had numerous major solo exhibitions internationally, most recently including SAME MAN, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2023); Weserberg Museum of Modern Art, Bremen (2021); LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2017); Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (2015); It’s a Free Concert, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz (2014); Prince/Picasso, Museo Picasso Málaga, Spain (2012); Richard Prince. American Prayer, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (2011); Continuation, Serpentine Gallery, London (2008) and Richard Prince: Spiritual America at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2008).