PRINCE & PICASSO, TOGETHER AT LASTJan. 4, 2011
The notorious appropriation artist Richard Prince is interested in more than just cowboys and nurses. His painterly recent works have referenced the full range of 20th-century artists, from Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso to Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol. Indeed, this very focus has become part of the legal argument in Cariou v. Prince, notably in the deposition and affidavit Prince gave in the case, in which he spoke about drawing inspiration from Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and other works.
Now, it appears that curators at Picasso’s hometown museum, Museo Picasso Málaga, were paying attention. The museum unveils “Prince/Picasso,” Feb. 27-May 27, 2012, an exhibition of about 100 new works by Prince that make reference to the Cubist master.
Prince was characteristically cagey when we asked him about the show. “Not sure what to say. . . he’s untouchable,” he said via email, before adding, “I don’t want to put Picasso’s foot in my mouth.”
But, when he was strong-armed in legal proceedings to explain some of his works, Prince was more revealing. He mentioned that the "Canal Zone" series at issue in Cariou v. Prince was inspired in part by viewing a Picasso exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, in which he saw the artist’s series of Cubist reinterpretations of Édouard Manet’s famous Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (1862-63) -- which might be viewed as an early instance of appropriation art.
When asked during his deposition if any of the works in “Canal Zone” were a reference to that Picasso cycle, Prince answered, “I don’t believe there was a direct interest in making or pointing to that particular painting. It was more about the fact that I was interested in Picasso paying homage to a previous artist.”
In several of the “Canal Zone” works, such as Mr. Jones (2008) and Cheese and Crackers (2008), Prince constructs fractured Cubist forms out of collaged nudes, à la Picasso’s legendary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. And the Rastas themselves evoke Picasso’s interest in African imagery. In Graduation (2008) and Meditation (2008), Prince said he “painted a Picasso-inspired blue lozenge facemask directly onto the canvas on the Rastafarian’s face.”
Some of the new Prince works that go on view next month in Malaga -- tilting gray figures with primitivist faces -- recall Picasso’s Neoclassical period as well as the figures in Les Demoiselles (and have oversized hands and feet that, arguably, suggest de Kooning).
Of course, Prince can’t show any of the 29 “Canal Zone” works at the upcoming exhibition -- they’re still locked up in a Long Island City warehouse pending his appeal. Nevertheless, the artist has managed to produce the new works in just about two years. As he put it in the court papers, “I often do paintings in a day or less (something which many other artists such as Picasso are also known for).”
P.S. A reader has reminded us that Richard Prince’s dealer in Paris and Brussels, Almine Rech, is a trustee of the Museo Picasso Málaga, along with her husband -- Bernard Ruiz-Picasso.