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Richard Prince

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

Artist 140 Richard Prince Re-photography Cultural Identity

Richard Prince (born 1949) is an American painter and photographer. In the mid-1970s, Prince made drawings and painterly collages that he has since disowned.

He began copying other photographers' work in 1977. He would start rephotographing of photographs and appropriate them from advertisements. It was the first rephotograph to be sold for more than $1 million in 2005. He is regarded as "one of the most revered artists of his generation" according to the New York Times.

Re-photography uses appropriation as its own focus: artists pull from the works of others and the worlds they depict to create their own work. Appropriation art became popular in the late 1970s.

On the topic of found photographs, Prince said, "Oceans without surfers, cowboys without Marlboros…Even though I’m aware of the classicism of the images. I seem to go after images that I don’t quite believe. And, I try to re-present them even more unbelievably."

One of the most infamous appropriation artists, Richard Prince employs a number of strategies to question the authorship and ownership of artistic imagery.

By rephotographing, copying, scanning, and manipulating the work of others, he has crafted a technique of appropriation and provocation. Drawing his subjects from subcultures and cultural cliches, Prince also demonstrates how easily we accept marketing messages and stereotypes, and how dependent these icons are on the context in which they are presented.

Stripped from their original environment, Prince makes the familiar seem strange, and invites the viewer to scrutinize that which is usually consumed in a quick glance.

By reproducing the cliches of advertising and mass media in the gallery space, Prince forces the viewer to confront how these messages are fiction. Prince specifically chooses iconic cultural symbols, such as the lone cowboy or the sexy nurse, which he both celebrates and exposes as false constructions.

Prince's appropriation techniques have invited multiple lawsuits, with mixed results. His process of borrowing, sampling, or copying the work of others has forced a legal and artistic reconsideration of the rights of reproduction and the ownership of images.

His work draws questions over cultural identity and how it is formed and manipulated.


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