I confess to still being shocked that Richard Prince is such a market Leviathan, a soothsayer of irony, slayer of image and cultural certainty for the New Millennium. To me, Prince has always been to the art-world what Larry Craig is to the Senate, sittin’ on the can, tapping his toes, desperate for amusement.
Prince’s "work" has always seemed destined for the discard pile, compared to the cruel majesty of Andy Warhol or the tactile grandeur of Donald Judd, twin poles of Male White. Snarling at his phony fan photos of sexpots Farrah or Pam Anderson, signed "with love, to Richard Prince," I grinned wanly at the general crapulence of his creative mojo. Think of a joke, any joke, and it’s probably got better legs than Prince’s unfunny "joke paintings." Biker chicks and Marlboro Men are flat, soulless and dyspeptic, the point being that such is the drainage pit of USA culture and how nice we are to pay big bucks at auction for pieces of our own boredom.
Nostalgia for sex and drugs surely contributes to the current reification of Prince’s nonentities. Somewhere upstate, even his "personality" is seeping through. He painted some auto graveyard gray: whoooppee. . . . What do Prince collectors say when showing off their acquisitions to nonartie friends, "You read about it in The New York Times, so now it’s on my wall"?
The nadir of desultory Princedom is the "Nurse" series, pages of ads from medical journals soaked in puddles. Remember the nurse who nursed Hemingway back to health from his war wounds? To a gut like Prince she is just a heap of smegma scratched from between the legs of Larry Craig. Hey, did you hear the one about Frank Lloyd Wright modeling the Guggenheim after a toilet? It’s about to overflow with crap.
"Richard Prince: Spiritual America," Sept. 28, 2007-Jan. 9, 2008, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10028.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).