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Richard Prince: Spiritual America

Post #1232 • September 18, 2008, 11:07 AM • 71 Comments

Minneapolis, MN - It should have been obvious by 1980 at the latest that we can place any object whatsoever into an art context and find meaning in it. This is how appropriation and other urinations on the wall of art enjoy their meager success. The reconstituted Marlboro Man photos by Richard Prince, for instance, are said by some alleged expert to question the role of authenticity in art, and then people act as if this power is received rather than granted, an inherent quality rather than a vaunted one. Of course, if we wanted to question authenticity in a manner that would produce an answer, we would put some forged Princes on the market and watch the aggrieved parties speed-dial their lawyers.

Like the musician of the same name, and with equal profundity, Prince's personality figures heavily into appreciation of his work, a supposedly badass type fascinated with bawdy jokes, cowboys, muscle cars, and pulp novels. But the more the wall labels of Richard Prince: Spiritual America described his interests, the more he looked like a failed version of Quentin Tarantino, turning out works that aspire to entertaining brutishness but succeed only as armchair exercises in artistic rebellion. Looking for respite from the deluge of ironic quotation, one finds his car hoods, mounted onto forms that lets them hang square on the wall, and painted a satiny, uniform color that makes them look like an urban version of something by Ellsworth Kelly. These aren't terrible, at least. But his latest paintings lift chops from de Kooning's women and apply them hamfistedly to figures excerpted from porn. A barometer of the dessication lies in a nearby vitrine containing a sketchbook, in which Prince has doodled Gene Simmons's facepaint onto one of de Kooning's earlier, delicate portrait drawings. This isn't so much badass as sadass.

Images pending.




September 18, 2008, 8:29 AM

Sorry I can't email this to you at the moment, Franklin, but I found two typos (and I can't wait to beat J. to pointing them out).

"Profundity" has only one 'o', and in the first line, I think maybe you meant to write, "It should have been obvious by 1918..."

I might be wrong about that second one, though...



September 18, 2008, 8:38 AM

The man does what he can with what he has to work with. You can't expect blood from a turnip. He's not the problem. No artist, real or imagined, is ever the real problem, no matter how abysmally ghastly the work may be. If "major" collectors and other artworld "experts" and enablers (and the inevitable camp followers) make a Prince, or a Hirst, or a Koons into a Big Deal, that is the problem.


Chris Rywalt

September 18, 2008, 8:45 AM

There's a sense in which I agree with you, Jack. I mean, if someone showed up with bags of money for tins of my feces, I'd sure as shit slides downhill hook my toilet up to a cannery. On the other hand, you'd all still be right in despising me for my cowardice and cupidity.

It's not just the collectors that are the problem; someone has to be shallow enough to provide them with the junk they buy.



September 18, 2008, 8:59 AM

Yes, Chris, but your "issues," however disreputable or unfortunate, would remain yours unless you had the requisite support and encouragement. If an artist can't do better than Prince's stuff, what is he supposed to do, get a brain transplant, or take advantage of a suitable, willing and profitable audience/market?

I have much less of a problem with shit-peddlers than with those who buy the shit (assuming it doesn't take supernatural powers to identify the shit as such).



September 18, 2008, 9:49 AM

So, to sum up your week of prairie art then, it looks like the mainstream contemporary galleries are busy playing at cowboys and indians, while a modernist underground carries on making the best art they can, in the face of an amateurish, apathetic, and even antagonistic coverage in the mainstream art press.

Or, have I mis-characterized the scene?



September 18, 2008, 10:22 AM

"[M]odernist underground" meaning who exactly? NESW, Peter Hide?



September 18, 2008, 10:55 AM




September 18, 2008, 10:58 AM

You nailed it there, Paul.

Covered up, glossed over, however you want to put it: it's the art that refuses to stay in the grave that know-nothing critics and curators have prematurely dug for it.



September 18, 2008, 11:10 AM

You make it sound so dramatic, MC. Disinterest is probably a better word for it.



September 18, 2008, 11:14 AM

You're right, Snide.

A modernist underground carries on making the best art they can, in the face of amateurish, apathetic, and even antagonistic coverage in the mainstream art press, and the disinterest of know-nothing critics and curators.

That's better... or, wait, isn't 'disinterest' a bit redundant after 'apathetic'? Oh well, best not make a fuss. It's just so nice to agree for once...



September 18, 2008, 11:21 AM

"A modernist old-school carries on making the best art they can, in the face of minimal coverage in the mainstream art press, and the disinterest of critics, curators, and audiences"

I think that's a fairer version. And old-school wasn't meant as a diss!



September 18, 2008, 11:21 AM

He should fire his PR person.



September 18, 2008, 11:25 AM

Not really, Snide. You imply there are no critics, curators, and audiences who are interested, which isn't true. My version was more accurate.



September 18, 2008, 11:26 AM

And back to the review at hand... Franklin, you should do some forged Princes if you have a spare moment on your journey!



September 18, 2008, 11:27 AM

Paul, feel free to flesh out your comments a little more, we can always use a new voice in the dialogue.

Who should fire their PR person? You mean Richard Prince?



September 18, 2008, 11:32 AM

Oh c'mon MC, we're almost agreed! And remember you don't want to underplay your underdog status!

Which of these variations works out better:

"[most] critics, curators, and audiences"
"[many] critics, curators, and [larger] audiences"



September 18, 2008, 11:34 AM




September 18, 2008, 12:04 PM

oh, oh, hackers



September 18, 2008, 12:05 PM

I doubt Peter Hide employs such a person (whereas I'm sure Richard Prince does). Perhaps you meant that the Royal Alberta Museum should fire their PR person? But, that seems overly harsh, as I'm sure the media must bear some responsibility to report on such an exhibition of sculptures by arguably one of the best sculptors alive at the province of Alberta's official museum. I mean, I'm sure the media received a press release, at the very least... Who can say, though?



September 18, 2008, 12:06 PM

No, I meant Hide.
I was confused about which prince you were talking about.



September 18, 2008, 12:08 PM

So, in other words, he should HIRE a PR person... gotcha.

Excellent career advice, no doubt about it. Hell, I betcha if Peter Hide himself spent less time making sculpture, and more time marketing himself, he'd get a schwack more press.

When you're right, you're right...



September 18, 2008, 12:13 PM

i like that kelly comparison



September 18, 2008, 12:19 PM

You mean he doesn't have a PR person?



September 18, 2008, 12:29 PM

Not that I know of. Lots of fawning, or rather, former students though!



September 18, 2008, 12:31 PM

Interns are ok if they do the job properly.



September 18, 2008, 12:34 PM

MC, what's the story? Was the RAM responsible for all promotion, while NESW did the literal heavy lifting?


Chris Rywalt

September 18, 2008, 1:41 PM

"Disinterested" means neutral, dispassionate. Not uninterested. A disinterested party is one you go to for arbitration. An uninterested party doesn't give a crap.

Again, subtle difference.



September 18, 2008, 3:47 PM

"Not that I know of. Lots of fawning, or rather, former students though!"

Ooh! Or should I say 'ew'... the ugly green-eyed monster raises its head!

See, whereas Peter Hide's monumental achievement as an artist has gained him the respect of students and peers, you, on the other hand, haven't actually ever accomplished anything that would merit anything other than ill-concealed laughter and contempt... Judging from your input here, the best you could hope for is to get elected Village Idiot.



September 18, 2008, 4:20 PM

A subtle difference perhaps, Chris, but an important one because the confusion between the meanings effectively eliminates the usefulness of the term, and disinterest is a useful term when used correctly. Unfortunately it has been misused almost out of existence.

I wish we could talk about paintings and get off the Canadian dogfight.

Prince is certainly bad enough and overrated enough to get a few digs.

Has anyone ever seen those $5 million nurse paintings? Someone explain that to me. I can understand (not go for but understand) the Koons and Hirst kind of hype for their kitch-branded superslick stuff but the Prince market bewilders me. He would have a hard time getting into our MFA program with those things.

Also Marlene Dumas and Karen Kilimnic and others. Same idea. They are just plain bad. What does anyone, even someone with no eye and deluded by the market, see in these?



September 18, 2008, 4:25 PM

Disinterested, from the OED

1. Without interest or concern; not interested, unconcerned.

2. Not influenced by interest; impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced; now always, Unbiased by personal interest; free from self-seeking.



September 18, 2008, 4:43 PM

"What does anyone, even someone with no eye and deluded by the market, see in these?"

Some people enjoy punk. Simple as that.



September 18, 2008, 6:33 PM

Calling those nurse paintings punk is an insult to punk.



September 18, 2008, 9:18 PM

It's just a typo, Franklin. It should have read "junk."



September 18, 2008, 9:57 PM

I have the OED, Snide. The real one, printed on paper.

The definition you quote is followed by "obs.". That means "obsolete". I guess you missed that.

Read all the definitions relating to the word, if you have the actual dictionary rather than some web abaption. You will find that it means exactly what Chris said it means.



September 18, 2008, 9:59 PM

If one goes for "punk", whtever that is, it's OK with me.

I suspect it can be had a lot cheaper, however.



September 18, 2008, 10:06 PM

#34 - just to be perfectly clear, the first (earlier) definition you quoted is labelled "obsolete".

The second one is accurate and current.



September 18, 2008, 10:23 PM

Opie, old fellow, your edition isn't current or accurate. But I double-checked, on the official OED site again, and that first definition does in fact note that it is "(Often regarded as a loose use.)"-- which seems well-suited to artblog any old how! And if I'm in keeping with Donne's usage, then I don't really feel that bad.

Maybe you old guys just need the right soundtrack to make sense of Prince, just let me know!



September 18, 2008, 10:48 PM

Maybe you old guys just need earing hades.



September 19, 2008, 12:24 AM

ok. whoa now. we can talk a lot of smack about whatever you like but i just don't get the 'old fellers' bit. what exactly does age have to do with anything excepting the maturity level of ignorant comments like these?


Chris Rywalt

September 19, 2008, 6:58 AM

For the record, I'm not old. Unless 37 is old these days. I mean, I'm older than I was a little while ago.

One has to be careful with dictionaries. They're often descriptive, not prescriptive. When people misuse a word often enough, it becomes accepted and enters the dictionary. I'd like to think the OED is further above this than others, but what do I know? Merriam-Webster (my preferred online dictionary) is very descriptive, not very prescriptive.

I like to think that educated people should act as a counterweight to descriptivism. We may not be able to stop a word's meaning from changing, but we can dig in our heels and make the attempt.


Chris Rywalt

September 19, 2008, 7:01 AM

If Richard Prince is punk, he's the Sex Pistols, not the Clash. That is, a calculated attempt at selling anti-commercialism.



September 19, 2008, 7:04 AM

The use of "disinterested" to mean "not interested" shows ignorance. Not serious ignorance, but ignorance nontheless. This is not only supported by my reference to the OED (as it is currently published in the standard full edition) but by your own reference to "loose use"in the readapted web version.

It is possible, in circumstances like this, to simply accede and gracefully own up to having learned something. You, however, resort to negative characterization of the person who made the correction. This is worse than ignorance; it is a display of bad character. Ignorance can be easily corrected by learning. Bad character is less amenable to change.



September 19, 2008, 8:48 AM

You're assuming, Opie, that the person you're addressing is capable of contrition. I see limited evidence of that, to put it gently.

I was just talking about this over dinner last night - I very much don't want to conflate ideology with character, but good gravy, just look at what kind of behavior we witness around here on behalf of postmodernism. I wouldn't trust these people to mow my lawn.



September 19, 2008, 9:18 AM

Opie, what's the "full" edition of the OED that you currently have? We can argue about legitimacy of print vs. online sources until you're blue in the face, but I'm guessing you just didn't actually get the most recent twenty volume edition, or at minimum, any of the quarterly updates. Are you being perfectly honest, Opie?



September 19, 2008, 9:24 AM

You're wrong and you're boring me, Snide. Drop it and start dealing with the original post.



September 19, 2008, 9:29 AM


"Hell hath no fury..."



September 19, 2008, 10:31 AM

Okay, timestamps on posts now reflect correct east coast time, I believe.



September 19, 2008, 10:34 AM

As a disinterested party, I'm not interested in this debate. ceviche?



September 19, 2008, 10:38 AM

It is a moot point, Snide. You yourself volunteered that whatever version you are using regarded the first definition as "Often regarded as a loose use." This an updated nd entirely accurate recognition that people now misuse the term, and, by implication, we can assume that this misuse will, in time, become standard usage.

However, is it not now standard usage, and educated people know the difference and use it correctly.

I know Franklin. I can't help myself. At least this one involves actual real terms.



September 19, 2008, 10:44 AM

Really, OP. You should know better, certainly by now. You might as well try to get Julian Schnabel to admit, in writing, that he really is a big, fat joke.



September 19, 2008, 12:09 PM

I am an ass and I will now go research 1. hyperlinks and 2. manners. [I have edited this comment. - F.]



September 19, 2008, 12:39 PM

Oh, rats! It must have been bad enough to be interesting.



September 19, 2008, 12:41 PM

If it were bad enough to be interesting I would have left it.


Chris Rywalt

September 19, 2008, 8:17 PM

It's worth noting that a phrase like "Often regarded as a loose use" translates from British into American as "Only considered correct by morons."



September 20, 2008, 2:29 AM

For certain, I've no interest in renewing what has been referred to as "the Canadian dog-fight" but I am wondering, if you would say that Mitchel Smith, Peter Hide offer the best of what you saw in Edmonton, Franklin? Are you going to be writing about Saskatoon and what you saw there? I don't know what other Canadian cities you visited but I'd be interested.



September 20, 2008, 7:57 AM

In Saskatoon I visited with Terry Fenton and went to his studio and home. I don't write about studio visits, but he and his wife were extremely gracious to us and we had a fine time with them. After that we spent most of our time driving under the glorious skies of Saskatchewan, stopped in Manitou Beach, SK, then Brandon, MB, and then back into the US where the RV broke down. So Smith and Hide got the good reviews but a lot of folks are making decent work that I saw - Fenton, the crew at Common Sense, a lot of people I hadn't heard of before in the AGA vault.



September 20, 2008, 10:16 AM

I don't get the impression that you really saw the full range of interesting art Edmonton, Franklin.

Hide is the "daddy" of sculpture up there, but there are a dozen others who are excellent. And there are painters galore - Bentham, Keller, Bingham, Faulder, Drouin, Scott, Christie, Peacock, Clarke, Knowles, King, Owen, Ellis, Luck - just to name the ones I can think of off hand, that I am familiar with. Fenton's landscapes are truly excellent.

Maybe you could do a follow-up with a few web pages or pictures.



September 20, 2008, 10:51 AM

I recall Franklin seemed especially taken with the handful of Doug Haynes' pictures that he saw up here (Haynes is a 'daddy' of painting up here, to follow opie's characterization of Hide).

Aside from the four exhibitions viewed and written on (Smith, Hide, FtN, and Durer), we did take a stroll through the AGA's two other shows ("Real" and "Impression"), where I don't think Franklin took any notes, but I seem to recall his approval of the Marianne Watchel paintings in "Real", and he certainly seemed in favour of some of the print works from "Impression"...

My favorite from that show is this little woodcut by Walter Phillips. You too, Franklin?


Chris Rywalt

September 20, 2008, 11:34 AM

Little woodcut, little GIF.



September 20, 2008, 12:01 PM

Yeah, sorry Chris, that's from the AGA website... the print is bigger in person.

Here's a larger image...



September 20, 2008, 12:03 PM

Haynes is good, too. Watchell is new ot me & I like them. She ought to be careful with any products of refining processes; they can have strongly reactive alkaline chemicals in them which can change colors and eat canvas.


Chris Rywalt

September 20, 2008, 2:54 PM

That image is much better than the last one. Now I can see, though, a whiff of irony I'm not too happy with -- maybe it's me, but I feel a sense of "I'm going to apply an Eastern tradition-steeped technique to a quotidian Western scene -- wry amusement to follow."

Maybe it's me.


Chris Rywalt

September 20, 2008, 2:57 PM

She should definitely watch out, OP -- as soon as I hear "copper slag" I immediately think "oxidation."



September 20, 2008, 4:51 PM

Thanks for the info. I was wondering if Bob Scott from both Edmonton and some small place in Saskatchewan was on the Franklin expedition agenda. I've followed his career with interest over several years. There are a remarkable number of good painters and sculptors in Saskatchewan and Alberta.


Chris Rywalt

September 20, 2008, 7:53 PM

I just looked it up on Google and good lord Edmonton is the middle of nowhere! I thought it had the decency to be south near the American border, like Toronto or Vancouver, and instead it's practically in the Arctic! Winters there must be...I don't want to think about it.



September 20, 2008, 8:05 PM

Yeah, but I can see Russia from my house...



September 20, 2008, 10:04 PM

Think how well located we'll be once the arctic has been melted away.



September 20, 2008, 10:13 PM

Top o' the world, Ma!



September 21, 2008, 10:07 AM

when did this become canadia central?
Any Noufies on this blog?they're a hoot..



September 21, 2008, 10:22 AM

That's an ironic name you have there, Sophie...


Chris Rywalt

September 23, 2008, 12:25 PM

During a game of Yahtzee the other night, my daughter decided she was from the country of Canadia. Lots of laughs.



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