Chal­leng­ing Im­ages

Richard Prince’s con­tro­ver­sial cow­boy pic­tures go on view at LACMA in Los An­ge­les.

Western Art Collector - - LETTER EDITOR FROM THE -

In the mid-1970s Richard Prince was an as­pir­ing artist work­ing in Time magazine’s tear sheet de­part­ment, where he would fre­quently come across ad­ver­tise­ments fea­tur­ing pho­to­graphs of prod­ucts and mod­els. Prince even­tu­ally took the ad­ver­tise­ments and pho­tographed them, of­ten only al­ter­ing the fram­ing of the orig­i­nal im­ages.

His most fa­mous se­ries, Un­ti­tled (cow­boy), fea­tured im­ages from Marl­boro cig­a­rette ads and showed cow­boys chas­ing down horses and cat­tle in high­coun­try pas­tures. Prince’s artis­tic meth­ods, some­times called “repho­tograph­ing,” touched off a firestorm of con­tro­versy that cen­tered on the na­ture of art, the con­ven­tional mean­ings and lim­its of pho­tog­ra­phy, and art own­er­ship.

The artist is once again re­vis­it­ing Un­ti­tled (cow­boy) for new work cre­ated in 2015 and 2016, work that will be the fo­cus of a new ex­hi­bi­tion, Richard Prince: Un­ti­tled (cow­boy) now open at the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art. Prince is repho­tograph­ing im­ages from his 1980s and 1990s cow­boys se­ries but us­ing more con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­ogy.

“In con­trast to this stu­diobased ma­nip­u­la­tion for the

2013 se­ries Un­ti­tled (orig­i­nal cow­boy), Prince went to Utah, seek­ing out quin­tes­sen­tial view­points es­tab­lished by le­gions of pho­tog­ra­phers—tourists and artists alike—who pre­ceded him,” ac­cord­ing to the mu­seum. “Ex­tend­ing his in­ter­ro­ga­tion of this par­tic­u­lar Amer­i­can pro­tag­o­nist into the era of In­sta­gram, Prince demon­strates that the stakes around orig­i­nal­ity, ap­pro­pri­a­tion, and truth in ad­ver­tis­ing are as high as ever.” The ex­hi­bi­tion will be on view at LACMA through March 25.

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