Richard Prince at Gagosian, NYC
Richard Prince is known for his photo appropriations and collage, but the sleekness of Prince’s work is nowhere to be seen in his latest show at Gagosian Gallery in New York City. Instead of Instagram paintings or nurses, vivacious colorful expressive paintings line the walls of the palatial gallery in Chelsea. Entitled High Times, Prince is making work here that loses the artifice and embraces the joyfulness of art-making.
Before Prince ever became a leading figure of the Pictures Generation, he was a teen who enjoyed drawing and loved Jackson Pollock. Eventually he gave up those ideas for the heady conceptualism of the ‘70s New York art scene. However, as he became an art world darling, Prince grew up and isolated himself outside of the city. By the 2000s, he was a father watching his own children draw. He missed the pleasure of making and doing, so Prince began to make paintings that collaged together various materials, like charcoal, oil stick, inkjet prints, and acrylic paint. The results are certainly the most tactile and vibrant of the artist’s career, and recall not his own work of the 1980s, but the work of a style from the same era: the Neo-Expressionists.
For works that were this unusual for an artist like Prince, it is a surprise they were largely ignored for so long. In 2016, the magazine High Times (a periodical for marijuana enthusiasts) saw images of the work and asked Prince to create a cover for their publication. In a way, this all connects back to the earliest iterations of these works in the late 1990s. Called Hippie Drawings, Prince made drawings that he thought the hippies would create. Obviously, this connection between the American imagination and recreational drugs dovetails nicely with the branding of High Times. This collaboration also led to the creation of more work, and eventually, this very exhibition.
Richard Prince is known as a versatile and talented artist, but even still, these works feel like a major departure. Gone is the slick appropriations, the Playboy imagery, and all the rest. Instead we see here an artist that is taking a new route, with decisive and happy attitude.