My wife and I attended two events at the Neuberger Museum at SUNY Purchase, a lecture by Lesley Dill in front of her solo show "Tremendous World" and the party for "Fugitive Artist: The Early Work of Richard Prince."
The first person we encountered was our old pal Deborah Kass, who has a one-woman installation in Paul Kasmin's booth at the upcoming Armory Show. Lesley Dill was most entertaining: describing a satanically red wall hanging, she explained, "This is based on a vision I had as a 14-year-old girl in Maine." Another piece, resembling a Pat Steir made from stringy hair, inspired this rejoinder: "I asked Frank, my wire guy in Jersey, how many feet of wire went into this piece. He told me 2,150,000 feet."
Dill's insouciance included references to her laundromat in Brooklyn "which prohibits dyeing" and her 600-square-foot studio, hardly big enough to encompass the gigantic pieces on the wall of the Neuberger.
In other words, Lesley Dill is no Richard Prince, at least not version two-double-0-seven -- she's endearingly still part of bohemian 1974, the era of the early works which Prince is boycotting at the Neuberger show. (Prince has blocked the reproduction of images, which he regards as "student work").
Angus Whyte, a dapper San Francisco drawings dealer, who brought his friends, the actors Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker (L.A. Law) to the vernissage, was one of the first dealers to exhibit Richard Prince in the old days. Whyte lent a number of pieces to the show, which overall resembles the youthful work of Dennis Oppenheim.
Angus related some of his difficulties to me, "I approached Barbara Gladstone (Prince's current dealer) about this show and she turned me down. Then I attended a Prince show at Regen Projects in Los Angeles and they told me my work was by a different Richard Prince." Whyte handed us a self-published catalogue of even earlier Prince pieces, which looked like a cross between Picasso and Mel Ramos. "I'm a bit perturbed," he laughed, "at Michael Lobell (the affable curator of "Fugitive Artist"), because he rejected these Princes as too early."
Our heads began to spin in the widening gyre of influence and appropriation, as if the mad genius Prince, since the cradle, had turned our brains into Lesley Dills through an endless cycle of production and reproduction. We looked up from the rinky-dinky assortment of doodles and asked "Why?" without answer. But then, why are zillionaires spending millions on photos of photos of actors mimicking cowboys by that same dingdong "genius"?
As with Prince, a joke seemed appropriate, so we appropriated one from the joke page of the SUNY Purchase student newspaper, "You're body's like a temple. There are no services today."
Lesley Dill, "Tremendous World," Feb. 11-June 3, 2007, and "Fugitive Artist: Early Works of Richard Prince, 1974-77," Jan. 28-June 24, 2007, at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y. 10577.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).