Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015566, Wed, 10 Oct 2007 08:17:38 -0400

Richard Prince at the Guggenheim ...

Complete article: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2007/10/15/071015craw_artworld_schjeldahl
The Art World
The Joker
Richard Prince at the Guggenheim.
by Peter Schjeldahl

Prince’s “Dude Ranch Nurse” (2002), from a series of paintings from covers of semi-smutty romance novels.

The immense art-world success of Richard Prince, the subject of a large and seductive retrospective at the Guggenheim, depresses me, not that I can gainsay it. If “quintessential artist in a generation” were a job opening, Prince, fifty-eight years old, would be an inevitable hire, having hit no end of avant-gardist sweet spots since the late nineteen-seventies in photography, painting, and sculpture. His contemporaries Cindy Sherman and, off and on, Jeff Koons are better, for stand-alone works of originality, beauty, and significance. But they don’t contest Prince’s chosen, Warholian ground as a magus of contemporary American culture. (Koons tried, but his attempt was too weird for comprehension, let alone assent.) Prince’s works make him an artist as anthropologist, illuminating folkways by recycling advertising photographs, cartoon and one-liner jokes, soft-core pornography, motorcycle-cult ephemera, pulp-novel covers, “Dukes of Hazzard”-era car parts, celebrity memorabilia, and other demotic flotsam. His bald rip-offs of painting styles from Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, and, lately, Willem de Kooning make him an artist as irreverent art critic, razzing exalted reputations. Prince can seem to cover, in an insouciantly corrosive way, the whole topography of the aesthetic in present high and low life; and he is acute enough that a refusal to play along, for the nuanced pleasures that he provides, would be bigoted. But his is a shallow, brittle, ultimately desolating conceit—seizing on things that are a-twitch with a little vitality, and chloroforming them. Prince’s nearest approach to identifiable emotion is the exiguous zeal of obsessive collecting. (He’s a bibliophile, with letches for authors, including Nabokov and Kerouac.)

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