Most fashion followers would know ‘appropriation’ artist Richard Prince best for his collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton back in Spring 2008. In homage to the artist, Vuitton sent models down the runway dressed as nurses- an obsession of Prince’s. The monogrammed bags and hats designed by the artist were popularised by celebrities and replicated by thousands of Asian sweatshops.
Appropriation (the process of reworking another artists’ work) became popular in the 1970′s. Richard Prince’s main medium is re-photography, a technique criticized by some (Prince lost a court case with one photographer who claimed he pleigerised his original images) But my favourite Richard Prince appropriation series would have to be the famous ‘Cowboys’. Developed from 1980 onwards, the rephotographed series focuses on the Marlboro advertisements, and depict a stereotyped and often idealised American masculinity. The cowboys were painted in different mediums, but always promoted the cowboy, powerful and sometimes horseless, across a Western landscape, complete with tumbleweed, or with different macho paraphenalia like lassoo’s and spurs. Prince became well known for this obsession with the cowboy and the remaking of the Marlboro advertisements.
But back to the nurses. Richard Prince’s sexualisation of Nurses, all in minimal ‘nursy’ garb including surgical masks, were superimposed on to canvas via scanning and computer ink jet, then reworked with acrylic paint, similar to the covers of retro books and magazines, and with similar titles . He created characters for his nurses, playing out different fantasies. Some of my favourites are Millionaire nurse, Runaway nurse, and Surf Safari nurse just to mention a few. Richard Prince’s nurses can make some people feel uncomfortable. For me, it makes me question the subject and it’s reality.
Repeating different versions of artworks of the one subject ie. cowboys or nurses, led to the idea of grouping a bunch of the images together became known as ‘Ganging’ and is a regular practice for Prince. Displaying 9 or 12 of them together makes the viewer draw a relationship between the images. Prince repeated his technique of Ganging by appropriating the images taken from a motorcycle magazine in his series called GIRLFRIENDS which featured sexualised bikie’s girlfriends draped over a chopper. When viewed in a series, the result is a fabulous 80′s mash-up of bikie-trash, the kind you’d see in the ‘Real Girls’ section of Picture.
Source: richardprince.com, guggenheim.org, images via RichardPrice.com