Richard Prince


Richard Prince (b. 1949) is one of the most innovative and polemic American artists. Whether you associate him with The Pictures Generation, post-modernism, or appropriation art, his contribution is undeniable.  

Prince has worked in a variety of formats over the course of his career, yet each of his series shares a similar approach: extract an element from America's visual culture and elevate it similar to Duchamp's urinal. 

Prince's key ingredients come through mass media. Whether it's nurses from the covers of pulp fiction novels, macho cowboys in Marlboro ads, or supermodel selfies, Prince reflects and subverts the gauntlet of American imagery. 

Humour, like appropriation, plays an essential role within Prince's oeuvre. One of his most acclaimed series is Jokes in which he appropriated and enlarged phrases from jokes by comedians and one-strip cartoons onto large canvases. Outside of the context of a joke (or comic strip), the humorous fiction takes on poignant, ambiguous, or absurdist truths.  

"Study for Joke: Missing or Presumed Dead" is a paradigm example of Prince's aesthetic and artistic practice. Beginning in 1984 Prince began collecting one-line gag cartoons, similar to ones you could find in newspapers or even the New Yorker. Here Prince appropriated a one-line gag cartoon and dissected it into 9 distinct images, formatting them together in his signature spaced-out grid style. This grid format, which he referred to as "gangs" was used for many of Prince's most iconic subjects including biker girlfriends and Cowboys.

In this important and unique mock-up, Prince has hand-written various notes and inscriptions for the final larger work. Some of the inscriptions in red appear to be directional notes from the cartoon editor (or Prince himself), while others in black play upon the jokes punchlines repeating the phrase "missing and presumed dead". Princes' manipulations both document and parody aspects of American culture.

The final incarnation for this study, "Untitled (Joke: Missing & Presumed Dead)", is a massive photograph hanging in the Whitney Museum of American Art's permanent collection in New York. The layout, coloring, and images are virtually indistinguishable from this study. The one major difference (aside from the size) is that the final version lacks the original marker and pen inscriptions written by Prince himself on this work.  

Questions about this piece? Contact us or call 416.704.1720

"Study for Joke: Missing or Presumed Dead"  

USA, 1986

Marker and pen on ektacolor photographs

Signed, dated Sept 19 1896 and inscribed  Working Proof by the artist in marker and pen. 

24"H 20"W  (work)

26.75"H 22.75"W (framed)

Framed with museum glass

Very good condition.

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