Opening In Charlestown: Glitch Gallery

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hello, new headshot
I wish I could be there right now, for the opening, but I’m stoked to announce the inclusion of some work in a group exhibition at Glitch Gallery in Charlestown, Massachusetts titled, “Challenging the law without infringing the law.” The show is curated by Primavera Di Filippi, and includes Brian Dupont, Sara Hendren, Esmerelda Kosmatopoulos, Kofhschlag, and Sara Newman & Matthew Battles.
The show is the first time that Untitled (300×404), a project I began in 2009, is being exhibited IRL. The work’s original is a 300x404px jpg image of a Richard Prince Cowboy photo, but the most widely known manifestation is the print edition published by 20×200.com. [Which is once again available, btw, in limited numbers.]
If you’re in or near Charlestown, I hope you’ll check out the show.
Glitch Gallery Exhibit 005 — Challenging the law without infringing the law, opens Sept 20, 2014 [glitchmonster.com]

Maybe I Should Paint Them

One of the quotes that sticks with me from Richard Prince’s deposition in Cariou v. Prince:

Q. All right. Now, you say you picked up a book on them?
RP: In — literally, yes, I picked up a book.
Q. Okay. And that’s the Yes Rasta book —
RP: Yes.
Q. — that we’ve been talking about, that’s in front of you? okay. now, down a few lines you said, But I love the look, comma, and I love the dreads. What did you mean by that?
RP: What do you mean what do I mean by that? I just said it. I love the look and I love the dreads.
Q. What did you love about the look?
RP: I love the way they looked.
Q. How so?
RP: I don’t know how to answer that question, how so. I love the way they looked. I mean that’s usually I get — that’s how I respond to images.
I think maybe I liked the way that they were so different.
Q. Than what?
RP: Than myself. I don’t have dreads. I wish I could. I mean I think that was some of the thinking or some of the — perhaps it goes back to the girlfriends.The reason why I took the girlfriends is I wanted to be a girlfriend.
I think some of the attraction that I had to some of these people who looked like Rastas in St. Barth, hanging out at the bars, I said to myself, Gee, I wish I could look like that some day.
So if I can’t tweet like that maybe I should paint them. Maybe that’s a way to substitute that desire. I mean that’s the only way I can answer that love question.

Then he goes on to talk about his stepson turning him onto the reggae cover band Radiodread. It’s really awesome.

It’s Hard To Keep The Cowboys Straight

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Republicans: Gays, Drunks, Let God Sort’em Out, image: AP/Rex C. Curry via TPM
Yesterday I tweeted about Texas governor Rick Perry wearing his “Smart Glasses” and standing “in front of a Richard Prince mural” in San Francisco where he was condemned for comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.
This morning Mr. Prince tweeted the following, which, like most tweets that don’t mention me, I assumed to be about me:

Upon further review, it turns out the photograph of Governor Perry was actually taken last Thursday at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, where the party was condemned for endorsing anti-gay “conversion therapy.”
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images ap/ray c. curry via chron
The image projected behind Gov. Perry is Lone Rider, Texas, a 1974 photo by William Albert Allard, originally published in National Geographic Magazine.
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detail of “West Texas Cowboy,” Allard’s National Geographic wallpaper
It is one of the first five results on Google Image search for “texas cowboy riding,” and given the saturation levels and pixellation, I suspect Gov. Perry’s people got their jpg from the National Geographic wallpaper collection and cropped out the copyright info and logo,
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and not from the C-prints for sale in Allard’s gallery.
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Allard was one of the original photographers for the Marlboro Man and Marlboro Country ad campaigns after they switched from models to real cowboys in the 1970s. Prince would begin rephotographing these print ads around 1980. As far as can be discerned, this image has not appeared in a Marlboro ad, and has not been rephotographed by Mr. Prince. Yet.
greg.org regrets the error.

Richard Prince’s Spiritual America, 1983, Executed In 1987 Or So

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Christie’s is selling a 20×24-inch print of Richard Prince’s Spiritual America in their extra-edgy sale, titled “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday….” Though apparently it’s not so edgy they feel comfortable running the image of the work. Maybe the added attention to the image that comes from a 100x increase in the pre-sale estimate–since 1999, the last time they sold the same print, 10/10 is it right that this is the only one of the 12 prints to ever come up for auction?–makes even auctioneers uncomfortable.
But the price spike has not spurred any new interest in when Prince actually made the object being sold. In both the 2014 and 1999 catalogues, the print is listed as “Signed, numbered and dated ‘R Prince 1983 10/10’ (on the reverse)” and so “Executed in 1983. This work is number ten from an edition of ten plus two artist’s proofs.”
Except it’s not. Christie’s quotes Prince’s recent bird talk post where he recounts the creation of Spiritual America in unprecedented and fascinating detail. He’d scored a copy of a “pamphlet” Gary Gross self-published, which included an image of the sexualized photos of a 10-yo Brooke Shields, from Gross’s agency. He rephotographed it, developed it, selected the image to print, and ordered a single 8×10 proof, which is what he ended up showing as Spiritual America in 1983.
Christie’s’ doesn’t quote the part further down, where Prince writes,

eventually gave the 8×10″ of Spiritual America to Myer Viceman. Frame and all.
In 1987, after I joined up with Barbara Gladstone, I editioned it. Ten copies and two APs. I had my lab print it on ektacolor paper at 20 x 24″.

Which clarifies, or changes a bit what Prince said in his 2009 deposition in the Cariou v. Prince case. Cariou’s lawyer was asking about a “settlement,” with Gross over the rephotography of his image:

I mean Mr. Kennedy is talking about a 1992 discussion at the Whitney, and I believe at that time I bought the rights to the image for $2,000.
Q. From Gary Gross?
A. Yes.
Q. Because he threatened to sue you?
A. No. I was told by the Whitney that I–in order to exhibit that image I made a concession, or they advised me that it would probably be best that–and I believe I sort of reached out to him at the time.
Because up until then, that image that I rephotographed from that pamphlet that he had produced in 1983, I made one copy, an 8 by10, and I gave it away. And it wasn’t until 1992 that it came back into the limelight, and I think my attitude changed a bit and I was sort of willing to become more part of the process I suppose.
Q. And at that time you made ten copies plus an artist proof?
A At the time there was ten copies and i believe two artist proofs, none of which I own.

So until just now, I’d thought this meant he made the edition to release in time for his Whitney show, but I think he’s actually not saying that. He’s saying that the Whitney was requiring him to get a license from Gross before they exhibited Spiritual America. But the editioned prints already existed. So maybe the right date is Executed in 1987. Or maybe, you know, call someone to confirm it. RP’s tweet about the execution:


Now let’s talk about the Whitney’s insistence on getting clearances before showing appropriated work. How often does that happen?

Untitled (290 x 404, After Graduation, 2008, by Richard Prince)

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Who Owns This Image?
We got this.
Suddenly the New Yorker headline got me thinking, and I clicked on their little jpg of Graduation, and it’s 290 x 404 pixels–and its original title says it’s a screenshot– almost exactly the same dimensions as Untitled (300 x 404), and I’m like, DONE. Frankly I’m kind of embarrassed it took this long.
No need for Chinese Paint Mill; I’m ordering test prints tonight. It’ll be interesting to see what that little jpg looks like at Graduation-size. Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy, 2003) set the maximum for that print, just 30×40 inches. But Graduation is six feet tall, (72 3/4 by 52 1/2 inches, 1.85 x 1.33m). Could be a real mess, but that’s fair use for the rest of us.
Who Owns This Image? [newyorker]
Previously, related:
May 2009
the instigation: West Trademark F@*#(up
the concept: 300×404, the making of
June 2009:
proofs: Richard Prints, Untitled (300 x 404)
June 2010
published: Untitled (300 x 404) @ 20 x 200
the review/thinkpiece: the great debate: the value of greg allen’s untitled (300 x 404) [artfcity]

CZRPYR2 Is A Thing

Wow, the first shipment of Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA 2: The Appeals Decision & The Appendix arrived, and they actually look very nice.
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Which is good.
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Because people are writing about it. And buying it. And it would be kind of awkward if it sucked.
Your Thievin’ Art: At play in the field of fair use [artnews]
Not yet in stores: Buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA 2: The Appeals Decision & The Appendix direct, $12.99 [createspace]

A Guerrilla Reading, A Gallery Talk


On Friday March 22, I went to see Kenneth Goldsmith reading Richard Prince’s The Catcher In The Rye in front of a Prince rephotography piece in MoMA’s 2nd Floor galleries. I’d been bummed to have missed Goldsmith’s talk on Wednesday night [granted, I had an opening of my own, but still] so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss this most appropriate event. When he saw my tweets about it, KG graciously offered to reserve a ticket for me, a gesture which set a certain expectation in my mind of guest lists, seats, or crowd control.
Even as I asked at the desk for the ticket, though, my sense began to change. I suspected, and was right, that this was not a ticketed gig, or even a gallery talk-style crowd with a limited number of slots which, if you didn’t get one, you could shadow and eavesdrop on anyway. The ticket was for getting into the Museum. Which, of all things and all places, I did not need a comp for MoMA.

Continue reading “A Guerrilla Reading, A Gallery Talk”

Introducing CZRPYR2: The Appeal + The Appendix

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So I did this.
I am very pleased to announce the latest title from greg.org, Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA 2: The Appeals Court Decision in Cariou v. Prince, et al., Also The Court’s Complete Illustrated Appendix. It is available now.
It would have been available sooner. It really should have been available sooner. I got it all together by the end of the day the Appeals Court decision came down, but there was seemingly endless futzing and back & forth with the digital publisher about proofing and formatting, etc. So sorry for the delay.
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CZRPYR2 is a follow-on and indispensable primary source companion to Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA, [above, available here], which contains the full transcript of Richard Prince’s incredible 7-hour deposition, as well as many key filings and exhibits from the first phase of Cariou v. Prince.
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I wondered what you wondered: why not just add the Appeals Court decision to the original book? And if CZRPYR2 was only the decision itself, I might have done just that. Or not bothered with it at all. But then I found the beautiful Appendix the Court created for the decision, and I realized it deserved a permanent place in the history of the case, a book of its own.
Following on Patrick Cariou & friend’s own slapdash effort, the Appeals court produced a high-quality, carefully cross-referenced catalogue of each use of Cariou’s YES RASTA images in Prince’s Canal Zone paintings. This indexing was the basis of the judges’ Solomonic decision to divide the Canal Zone series into 25 non-infringing works, and 5 infringing?-who-knows-let’s-look-again works. Where applicable, the Court added highlights to Cariou’s images, arguably creating yet another transformative work. And submitting it into the public record.
For this 142-page volume, I integrated the Court’s collections of Prince & Cariou images, to facilitate painting-by-painting review of Prince’s appropriations. And I annotated them for easier referencing. But otherwise the Court’s primary documents are preserved, with an eye to posterity, as they were prepared,
CZRPYR2 is in this way a salute to the Court’s own transformative, creative spirit.
Buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA 2: The Appeals Court Decision in Cariou v. Prince, et al., Also The Court’s Complete Illustrated Appendix (142 pages, b&w, 6×9-in.) for $12.99 [createspace]
Buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince, et al for $17.99 [they can ship together, but I’ll probably only sell 2-vol. sets in person. Maybe on a blanket next to Central Park.]

Richard Prince’s Canal Zone Paintings: Now With 83% Less Infringiness!

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Word is definitely out, but it’s nice to see that copyright insanity has taken a step back for now.
The US Appeals Court largely reversed the earlier court ruling against Richard Prince, finding that the US District Court erred in finding his Canal Zone series paintings infringed the copyrights of Patrick Cariou. Specifically, they said that Judge Deborah Batts used the wrong standard in determining infringement and rejecting fair use.
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The Appeals Court judges declared that at least 25 of Prince’s paintings made obvious transformative use of Cariou’s photos. And after laying out a fairly expansive criteria for fair use, it ordered the court to re-review the other five Canal Zone works for infringiness. [That list includes Graduation (inaccurately reproduced below), Meditation (with the dude on the donkey), Charlie Company, Canal Zone (2008), and Canal Zone (2007) (above, which is actually collage, paint on book pages fixed onto a board, which was not in the Gagosian show or the catalogue; it was only shown in St. Barth’s. So why is it even covered by US law? Was it even made in the US? Is it even in the US? Is it impounded with the rest of the Canal Zone works? If so, WHY?]
In addition to citing previously unmentioned quotes from Richard Prince’s own deposition, the judges said that Prince’s intentions, or the unstated lack thereof, were not necessarily required to decide if something is fair use. Fair use can be in the eye of the beholder, specifically the “reasonable observer.” This seems both obvious, and slightly amazing to me. It also jibes pretty well with the amicus brief filed in the appeal by the Warhol Foundation.
It also means that fair use is not dependent solely on an artist making an explicit case for it. If Prince’s refusal to articulate a Koons-scale structure of critique and commentary is not required to appropriate something into your artwork, that would fortify a fair use defense. Rather than discuss art on the law’s terms, Prince has pulled the law toward considering art on its own terms.
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Another fascinating aspect of the decision–and by fascinating, I mean obvious and totally in agreement with me–is the court’s emphasis on the changes in size, format, and process between Cariou’s book pages and Prince’s giant inkjet/collage/paintings. [cf this discussion of scale recently] The court went so far as to create its own reference work, similar to the distorted exhibit Cariou entered, but clearer, documenting each painting and the Cariou images and fragments used in it. It’s really nice, and would be very handy for anyone wishing to make their own Canal Zone paintings. Ahem.
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Study for Untitled (After YES RASTA, p. 59), 2013
Anyway, there is more to come, including possibly a new round of evidence and testimony about Cariou’s photos and their appearance and alteration in Prince’s work. Or perhaps someone’ll try to settle. Cariou’s lawyer’s on contingency, I believe, and 40% of nothing is nothing. So who knows how this thing ends. After more than two years since the first cluster)($#%k of a decision, though, today’s gotta be something of a relief for Team Prince.
Here, btw, is a roundup of previous Cariou v. Prince posts, including readings, reviews, and info about the book I made, Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince, which contains the transcript from Prince’s amazing 7-hour deposition in the case:
Early days of THE BOOK:
the five most ridiculous things about the Richard Prince copyright decision
The Richard Prince decision? You’re soaking in it!
Richard Prince’s Spiritual America
Size Matters?
Actual found blurb: “THE WITNESS: This could be a cool book.”
Introducing: Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: The Book
More documents from the case, like:
The Movie Pitch that started Canal Zone: “The Movie is called ‘Eden Rock'”
The great Amicus brief filed by the Warhol Foundation
Some CZRPYR reviews and events:
Canal Zone YES RASTA &c. reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail
HOLY SMOKES REVIEW at the Poetry Foundation by Kenneth Goldsmith, which is really humbling and amazing
Apr 2012: CZRPYR included in “Canceled,” curated by Lauren van Haaften-Schick, at the Center for Book Arts
Sept 2012: Audio & coverage of a Printed Matter talk with Joy Garnett and Chris Habib where we actually discussed and looked at Prince’s paintings, which almost never happens.
Looking a bit at the amazing language of depositions, in relation to the live staging of the deposition we did for AFC.
A great discussion of a a WTF image: Virginia Rutledge and Penelope Umbrico talking copies
Buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince online, or in person at Printed Matter.

The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters

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A couple of weeks ago at Printed Matter I found copies of Spanner NYC, an arts magazine published in 1979-80 by Colab folks including Dick Miller & Terese Slotkin. In the back of the third/blue issue was a full page ad from “The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters,” offering their “practical esthetic services adaptable to client situation.”
There’ve been a ton of shows related to Colab recently, and I’d known The Offices at least by name, or as a line in a few peoples’ CVs. As the recent creator of a corporate entity designed to operate in the art world, though, I guess I’ve been newly sensitized to such ventures. And I realized I had no idea what, if anything, The Offices actually did.
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So first, the basics. The Offices seems to have been a conceptually driven, services-based, artist collaborative run on the ad agency or consultancy model. Which might be considered alongside corporate experiments like N.E. Thing, Co in Canada; Art & Language in the UK, that other UK group that infiltrated companies all over, which I can’t remember the generic name; and even the art-as-professional service work of Michael Asher. Or maybe it’s a failed utopic version of a massive sellout operation like Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki, Ltd.
The Offices sounds like it was an outgrowth of Colab, or at least created by artists involved in Colab. Peter Fend called it a “spinoff.” Here’s a photo from, perhaps, a board meeting, with all the name partners: [l to r] Robin Winters, Richard Prince, Jenny Holzer, Coleen Fitzgibbon Peter Fend, and Peter Nadin.
Actually, it could be at Peter Nadin Gallery, the artist’s studio transformed into an accretive exhibition space with Chris d’Arcangelo and Neil Lawson, where artists created work in response to the space and what had been made & shown there before. That continued for eight months from 1978-9, ending with a memorial show to mark d’Arcangelo’s death.
Or maybe it is the show on ecologically optimizing North America’s political and economic systems by reorganizing boundaries around its saltwater marsh basins. That show included work, a poster, by Fend and Holzer. I would have pegged Fend for the instigator of The Offices, but in telling the story of the basins project, Political Economies After Oil, he writes that Holzer “asked Fend to join her in a six-person artist team intent on “functional” projects.”

Continue reading “The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters”

Prince & The Hoods

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I really like Richard Prince’s Hoods; they felt like thoughtful work of their time–I’m thinking of the Loaded Neo-Minimalism of the early 90s, though they bracket that–and they were an unabashedly beautiful standout series at the Guggenheim in 2007. If they’re not under-known, I think they are, Randy Kennedy’s valiant efforts notwithstanding, under-appreciated. [Prince’s comment via Kennedy about not seeing a distinction “between his making and collecting practices” was a huge kick in the pants for me in 2007, btw. More on that another time.]
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A friend’s sweet Prince Hood at “Spiritual America,” 2007, image: artobserved
Maybe it’s kind of hard to discuss them when the artist pretty much wrapped them up so sweetly himself:

It was the perfect thing to paint. Great size. Great subtext. Great reality. Great thing that actually got painted out there, out there in real life. I mean I didn’t have to make this shit up. It was there. Teenagers knew it. It got ‘teen-aged.’ Primed. Flaked. Stripped. Bondo-ed. Lacquered. Nine coats. Sprayed. Numbered. Advertised on. Raced. Fucking Steve McQueened.

That’s typically cited as coming from 2003, from an interview with Jeffrey Rian published in Phaidon’s Richard Prince monograph, but the Q&A was actually first published in March 1987 in Art in America. [2024 update: Rian emailed to correct this; the Phaidon interview was new and separate from his AiA piece.]

I totally get the car culture finish fetish approach, but I wonder why I like the messier, Bondo-ier ones a little better? Some kind of vestigial taste for the painterly? An unacknowledged prejudice against outsourced fabrication? A closer link to the aesthetic brilliance of the hoods’ found, unfinished driveway project origins?
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Untitled (SB Hood #1), 1989, “acrylic, cast fibreglass and wood,” sold for £313,250 last week at Christie’s.
I was pondering on this very question when I saw this hood coming up at Christie’s, where it sold last week. [For my money, I’ve always liked the painting-style, wall-mounted hoods best–the hung-whole ones, not the ones embedded in canvases, which seem superfluous and accede too much for me–but the floor models are Juddful and irreverent, no doubt. Oh, except this one at Larry’s, which, um, Matthew Barney. But the installation does make one think maybe the hoods are only under-appreciated in public discourse. Maybe in their proper context, surrounded by enough architecture and acreage, they’re beloved.]
Anyway, as I’m reading the critical texts at hand–the auction catalogue’s lot notes–I see this:

Inspired by a trip to Los Angeles in 1987, Prince takes the molds of cars he has always admired–Mustangs, Challengers, Chargers, all masculine uber American models– and paints them, celebrating the simultaneous engineering of the American machine and his own sculptural prowess.

And I’m like, wait what? Did Prince take fiberglass molds of car hoods to celebrate his sculptural prowess? I thought the whole point was not having any sculptural prowess, so he ordered them from the back of Hot Rod magazines. Time for a cross-check.
Professor Phillips de Pury, you sold Pro Street (1992-2002), the most expensive Car Hood to date, for $744,000 in 2006; what do you have to say on the matter?

Pro Street is unique amongst Richard Prince’s car hood series; it spans the entire ten years […I- -ed.] he was in production with the other examples from the series. Inspired by a trip to Los Angeles in 1987, Prince takes the molds of cars he has always admired–Mustangs, Challengers, Chargers, all masculine uber American models–and paints them, celebrating the simultaneous engineering of the American machine and his own sculptural prowess.

Yes, well then. That seems appropriate.
Now if we could just clear up a question about the materials. It says Untitled (SB Hood #1) is “acrylic, cast fibreglass and wood.” But when it sold in 1995 it was listed as “Wood & oil, body compound, cast fiberglass.” So I’m just, I know it seems nitpicky, but–you know what, never mind how it’s made or from what, I guess the important thing is it made the reserve.

‘One Mask Shy Of A Nurse Painting’

So, Gerhard Richter and Richard Prince. They’ve both had their way with photography, and painting, and even squeegeeing, but do we ever consider them together? I mean, I’ve tweaked on each of them for several years now, and even I have to admit, I haven’t thought of their work in relation to each other, until this instant:
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Gerhard Richter’s 1996 photo edition, Small Bather, is based on an identically titled painting from a couple of years earlier.
And yes it’s the blur, but it’s also maybe the towel on Mrs. Richter’s head, but when I saw it in the Christie’s catalogue for next month’s London sale, the first thing I thought was “Whoa, Nurse Painting.”
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Richard Prince, Piney Woods Nurse, 2002, image: oh, it’s around
Seriously, how awesome would that be? I mean, the Chapmans worked over those Goya prints; and Kippenberger turned that Richter into a coffee table. I mean, sure you could paint over an inkjet of the thing, and flag your est. £40,000 – £60,000 for other things. But why?
On his site, Richter shows Small Bather, above, as it was published: “Cibachrome photograph, fixed on stiff, white cardboard, framed, behind glass.”
This example at Christie’s, though, is only shown cropped to the c-print, and is only listed as on the “artist’s mount,” which, that’s where it’s signed and numbered, so. So? So if some chucklehead compromised this particular piece by taking it out of the artist’s frame, why not use it as an ingredient in a new work? There are presumably still at least 53 others out there to carry on.
Contemporary Day Sale, Feb. 14, 2013 Lot 183: Gerhard Richter, Kl Badende, Small Bather, est. £40,000 – £60,000 [christies.com]
Kl. Badende | Small Bather, 1996 [gerhard-richter.com]

If He Did It

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Painting from life: Life Magazine, image: gagosian
In trying to figure out the why, no seriously, WHY? of Bob Dylan’s second [!] painting exhibition at Gagosian [!?], Gallerist NY’s Michael Miller was left with the same Only Possible Explanation that’s been dogging me since the musician’s first baffling Gagosian gig in October 2011:

All I could come up with was a conspiracy theory cooked up by a friend, that both of Mr. Dylan’s shows at Gagosian are actually the work of Richard Prince using “Bob Dylan” as a pseudonym, making the ultimate statement on art and artifice, and proving once and for all that Bob Dylan is whoever you want him to be.

Exactly! It makes perfect sense. Explains everything. Clear as day. All evidence points to it. Every piece of evidence there is. I will go so far as to say that wars have been started with less evidence than this. If Richard Prince were Iraq, we’d have invaded him and pulled him out of his Dylanholes by now, is what I’m saying.
Let’s look at the facts. Or rather, let’s look at the facts while entertaining the possibility that Prince is performing as Dylan the visual artist.
The 2011 show, The Asia Series, were originally presented as–and understood as–a tour documentary. We’re on the bus, walking the street, just hanging, seeing the world as Dylan sees it:

He often draws and paints while on tour, and his motifs bear corresponding impressions of the many different environments and people that he encounters. A keen observer, Dylan works from real life to depict everyday phenomena in such a way that they appear fresh, new, and mysterious.

And if this fantasy come true weren’t enough, Dylan’s real life turns out to be as exotic and mysterious as we’d always imagined The Orient to be:

The Asia Series, a visual journal of his travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea, comprises firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape, which can be clearly identified by title and specific cultural details, such as Mae Ling, Cockfight, The Bridge, and Hunan Province. Conversely, there are more cryptic paintings often of personalities and situations, such Big Brother and Opium, or LeBelle Cascade, which looks like a riff on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe but which is, in fact, a scenographic tourist photo-opportunity in a Tokyo amusement arcade.

That was the setup, the view that held for the first few days before Dylan’s paintings were revealed to be copies, tracings of old photographs. Whether the source was as famous as Henri Cartier-Bresson, as prominent as a new Magnum photo [licensed, apparently, after the fact], or as anonymous and obscure as a collection of 19th century, hand-tinted lantern slides scanned and uploaded to flickr, they had two things in common: 1) they were entirely unacknowledged, and 2) they were thoroughly and inevitably trackable.
In fact, Dylanologists were already on the case; they’d puzzled over the sudden change in Dylan’s painting style as evidenced by the images Gagosian was teasing the show with: a 1966 LIFE magazine cover slightly altered with “pulp references,” and a scene in an opium den which was quickly traced to a 1915 Leon Busy photo by the curator of the Opium Museum.
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screenshot from amy crehore’s blog, via expectingrain
And then the plagiarizing shit hit the fan. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but the media freakout over Dylan’s Asia Series paintings was so out of proportion to their obvious reality, it seemed staged.

CROWDED RIVER BOAT LIFE ON A CANTON CANAL in OLD CHINA of 1923
both above from Okinawa Soba’s flickr stream
Instead, it’s the kind of thief/appropriation/credit criticism that has followed Dylan throughout his entire career. Which should give him and Prince something to talk about.
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“Welcome to Bob Dylan’s world, Soba-san!” [image: expectingrain.com]
After the photo-based painting controversy broke, Gagosian tweaked the press release: “Dylan works from real life” became “Dylan is inspired by everyday phenomena,” and “a visual journal of his travels” became “a visual reflection,” which is no longer considered “firsthand.” But then, in these mediated days, what is?
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La Belle Cascade, dylan, gagosian via nybooks
I think the key to Dylan’s show is to be found here, in the reality gap between how something is “billed” or presented, and how it is received. Because as Dylan turns out to have told MoMA Chief Curator-turned-Gagosian adviser John Elderfield in the show’s catalogue interview, photographs are part of real life:

A number of the paintings–such as Emperor, La Belle Cascade, Cock Fight, and Shanghai–show very complex scenes. Were these done from sketches, or do you paint from photographs–or from drawings made from photographs–some of the time?
I paint mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind-the-curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work.

But besides the knack for appropriation-fueled outrage, what does any of this have to do with Richard Prince?
It’s true that the outsized criticism of Dylan’s photo-based painting struck me as ridiculous at the time, Fall 2011, when the Cariou v. Prince verdict and appeal were getting increased attention, and when the Corinna Belz’ documentary Gerhard Richter Painting and Richter’s retrospective were both receiving rapturous acclaim. Oh, and when John “yes, that John, right in the middle of it all,” Elderfield was taking his victory lap at MoMA with the last and greatest painting show of his career, the Willem de Kooning retrospective.
And I knew that Prince was involved–maybe implicated was the better word–because I saw he’d written a piece in the Asia Series catalogue, in which he mentioned D.H. Lawrence’s paintings, and compared Dylan’s La Belle Cascade to–holy crap–Cezanne’s Bathers:

The paintings that Dylan showed me out in L.A. were paintings from his travels in Asia. Some of them looked too big for him to have painted them while he was there, so maybe he had done them from memory or a photograph or a sketch or a drawing. I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask a lot of things. I didn’t need to. I just enjoyed the experience. I liked a painting called La Belle Cascade because it looked to me like one of Cézanne’s Bathers. And Cézanne’s Bathers are some of my favorite works of art

And when that essay was republished on the NY Review of Books after the controversy broke, I started wondering about the possible differences between “Dylan’s paintings” and “The paintings Dylan showed me,” and this equivocation about Dylan’s studio suddenly seemed a lot less benign than it had previously:

Dylan’s studio. I think it was Dylan’s studio. I’m still not sure. It didn’t look like any artist’s studio I’d ever been in.

Someone was working to not be pinned down. Prince knew what was up, and so, for that matter, did Elderfield. And so did anyone who looked at a 4-ft, vintage photo-based painting and wondered how the hell anyone, much less Bob Dylan, ever painted it on a Thai tour bus.
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But it wasn’t until a few months later, when I was deep in my own Destroyed Richter Paintings project, and I unrolled the first shipment of canvases from Chinese Paint Mill, that I recognized the painting style–as Bob Dylan’s. The same flatness, the same traced-over-projection line, the same filled-in spaces. Whether he’d ordered them from Chinese Paint Mill or from somewhere/one else, it now seemed obvious that Dylan did not paint his paintings.
Not that outsourcing his fabrication would grant Dylan anything greater than general admission at the contemporary art ball. Fling an iPhone in Chelsea, and you’re bound to hit an outsourcer, a fabricator, or both. These paintings aren’t any less “Dylan’s” or “Dylans” for having been painted by someone else. And are they any more Prince’s or Princes for him having made them? Or having them made? Are those Koonses actually Sarah Morrises? Are those Morrises actually by [names of her painters who call to chat and dish redacted]? That Richter painting Kippenberger table: was or is? Construction with J.J. Flag or Short Circuit?
As long as Dylan signs his paintings–whoops, he doesn’t–well, as long as they’re presented as his, under his name.
And he’s obviously on board with the project. If not, who would have engineered it? At Gagosian? Would Prince have claimed to have visited Dylan’s studio [sic] if it hadn’t happened? Well, yes. But would Elderfield have claimed to have interviewed him? And written two essays for two shows? For a Henry Codax-style, ghost Dylan?
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This past Summer, while working on a live restaging of Prince’s Canal Zone lawsuit, I started to sense that outsourcing, or hands-off production, was as important to his own practice as appropriation itself. The hand-off of his Cowboys film to commercial processors was an early example. It stuck when he testified about not meeting a now-grown Brooke Shields in 2005 when Sante D’Orazio shot her for a recreation of Spiritual America [above]:

Q. You just weren’t there?
A. I just–well, I wasn’t there by purpose.
Q. Okay. What was the purpose?
A. To transform the image.
Q. The photo–
A. Yes.
Q.–that Mr. D’Orazio took?
A. Yes. [M]y not being there is a transformative–the absence of the author is I believe a way to transform an image.

[Prince noted that his “contribution” also included selection, or “editing” D’Orazio’s 300 shots down to the one that would get printed. And then he showed it, as an unpublicized surprise, to guests at a private dinner held in the Rivington St. storefront where the original Spiritual America was first shown.]
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Untitled (Original), 2010, image: fultonryder
In his Fall 2009 deposition Prince also testified of tracking down the original illustrations used for pulp fiction book covers, such as those used in his Nurse paintings. He’d begun pairing these drawings & paintings with the books themselves. Untitled (Original), as the series is called, are featured at Fulton Ryder, Prince’s bookstore. Where, upon close inspection, it is immediately obvious that “the originals” in Untitled (Original)s are actually copies of the covers, which he has created. Or has had created. Commissioned.
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And the Charlie Company paintings [above] he showed in St. Barth at the Eden Roc hotel in 2008? Same thing. They look like reworked details and collages of various he-man adventure pulp covers? But they’re not paint on inkjet, but acrylic on canvas. Different process. Entirely fabricated, Princes painted to order.
Which all brings us to this year’s Dylan show at Gagosian, improbable under the most craven, degraded, celebrity-worshipping cultural best circumstances, Revisionist Art. I confess, I haven’t seen the paintings in person, but from the artists I know who have seen them, I’m better off for it. [I will get to the show, though, before it closes.]
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Playboy Magazine, Sharon Stone, 2011-12, image: gagosian
As image/objects, these large, supposedly “silkscreen on canvas” paintings are apparently jaw-droppingly awful. One person called them “wretched,” and couldn’t begin to see how they were silkscreened at all. The only explanation he could come up with was “silkscreen” as a technically accurate description of the 4-color Photoshop separation & printing process. They’re cheap and dead. As objects. And they’re puerile and unfunny and lame as content. Which makes them all the more befuddling and exasperating in their hallowed–or at least blue-chip–context.
Prince had written of the Asia paintings, “I think [they] are good paintings. They’re workmanlike and they do their job.” For the new show, this assessment serves as a lowered bar not to cleared, but to be mamboed under.
And all of which makes me even more certain of Prince’s involvement in Dylan’s painting project, and which makes me suspect that this reaction, the very experience of the paintings and the show, is the artist[s’] central focus.
In such a view, address labels for “Richard Staehung” and “Ricardo Wellhung” are not just sophomoric jokes, they’re signatures. By the guy who makes joke paintings. And autographs.
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Bob Dylan with guitar and harmonica, signed photo, dated 1/22/03, POR, via fultonryder
And then you start seeing Prince connections everywhere. The model, for instance, on the mockup cover of Playboy looks like she was photographed en route to an OCTPFAS read-in at “Mr. P’s” shop.
Over the summer, Fulton Ryder’s blog featured this Birdtalk, Prince’s term for the short appropriated texts and aphorisms he’s published throughout his career:

Daniel Boorstin says in his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America: that American life is becoming increasingly organized at every level, and that spontaneous events are being replaced by “pseudo-events”. We find ourselves in a situation where we accept reality as it is reported rather than as it really is: “We become so accustomed to our illusions, our images, that we mistake them for reality.” – Birdtalk

And this Fulton Ryder grouping was posted in September and again in November, just before Dylan’s opening. The titles displayed could be a poetic artist statement for the show:
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Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited
Wallace Berman Verifax C[ollages]*
De Kooning Recent Paintings
D.H. Lawrence’s Paintings
Fuck You
A magazine of the arts
Easy Guitar & Harmonica Edition
* few days later update: I realize I’d skipped the Berman reference, which is nuts, because Berman’s Verifax collages are ground zero here.
Here’s another one, connecting Lawrence, The Band, and the NY punk era that is Prince’s psychic hometown. To quote the man himself,

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

To be honest, I looked at John Dogg and Howard Johnson, and, I thought Bob Dylan was just Prince’s giant middle finger to the screwed up art system that doesn’t give enough of a damn to look at what it’s buying and selling and fawning over. Not just the death of the author, but his murder, and the propping up of the author’s corpse, Weekend At Bernie’s-style, in order to keep cashing his checks.
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A magazine of the arts: Revisionist Art images ganked from some Danish Dylan messageboard
But then as I was walking it back, trying to see, if not why, then where and when a Prince-for-Dylan relationship might have begun, I hit 2007, the year of Dylan’s first art exhibitions [of overpainted printouts of scans of pages from Drawn Blank, a 1994 book of tour sketches, which, mhmm]. And also the year of Todd Haynes’ remarkable movie I’m Not There, where six different actors portray six different Dylans and various times of his life.

Haynes spent seven years on the project, and a surprising amount of it feels captured in Robert Sullivan’s 2007 tagalong for the New York Times, which is one of the most sensitive and insightful making of stories I’ve ever read.
And I’ll steal Sullivan’s amazing hook here because it’ll only make you want to read the whole thing. It’s about being on the set for the identical mug shots of the Dylans which open the film [they’re in the trailer, too, above]:

Then Haynes took [Ben] Whishaw’s seat on the empty set and, in the video monitor, happened to perfectly align his head with those of all of his Dylans. When I stepped from the wings to look through the camera itself, I saw, in one semimystical, semirevealing moment, the artist as one with the artist he was trying to artificially reassemble.
Because Todd Haynes’ Dylan film isn’t about Dylan. That’s what’s going to be so difficult for people to understand. That’s what’s going to make “I’m Not There” so trying for the really diehard Dylanists. That’s what might upset the non-Dylanists, who may find it hard to figure out why he bothered to make it at all. And that’s why it took Haynes so long to get it made. Haynes was trying to make a Dylan film that is, instead, what Dylan is all about, as he sees it, which is changing, transforming, killing off one Dylan and moving to the next, shedding his artistic skin to stay alive. The twist is that to not be about Dylan can also be said to be true to the subject Dylan.

I think that’s what Prince is trying to do here. To be Dylan, to make a show and art that is what Dylan is all about. To make something real, whatever it takes, in the middle of a screwed up world. To confound and infuriate as you create, and to transform yourself in the process. And suddenly the answer to “Why??” becomes so crystal clear, I’m embarrassed to have even asked: “Because he could, and given the chance, you would, too.”
After I started taking this speculation seriously, and researching and relooking–I guess I could have started with this, but then where’s the fun?–I’ve been sort of, I don’t know, reached out to. [Not by the artist(s), who, how would you be able to believe either one in a situation like this? They’d just add one more refraction of ambiguity.] And holy smokes, people. About this one thing, at least, Prince’s centrality to Dylan’s paintings and shows, I don’t wonder anymore.
How Many Paintings Can One Man Make Before He Decides to Stick to Music? Bob Dylan Gets a Second Show at Gagosian [galleristny]
John Elderfield Interview with Bob Dylan, Spring 2011 [bobdylan]
The Asia Series discussion on Dylan fan site Expecting Rain [36 pgs] [expectingrain]
Deciphering the Asia Series: Dylan, Duchamp and the letter from Woody [swarmuth]

Creation Is Joined With The Playing

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Barnett Newman, 18 Cantos, image via portlandart.net
Barnett Newman, from the statement included in 18 Cantos, a set of lithographs produced in 1963-4 with ULAE:

I must explain that I had no plan to make a portfolio of “prints.” I am not a printmaker. Nor did I intend to make a “set” by introducing superficial variety. These cantos arose from a compelling necessity–the result of grappling with the instrument.
To me that is what lithography is. It is an instrument. It is not a “medium”; it is not a poor man’s substitute for painting or for drawing. Nor do I consider it to be a kind of translation of something from one medium to another. For me, it is an instrument that one plays. It is like a piano or an orchestra; and as with an instrument, it interprets. And as in all the interpretive arts, so in lithography, creation is joined with the “playing”–in this case not of bow and string but of stone and press. The definition of lithograph is that it is writing on stone. But unlike Gertrude Stein’s rose, the stone is not a stone. The stone is a piece of paper.
I have been captivated by the things that happen in playing this litho instrument, the choices that develop when changing a color of the paper size. I have “played” hoping to evoke every possible instrumental lick. The prints really started as three, grew to seven, then eleven, then fourteen, and finished as eighteen. Here are the cantos, eighteen of them, each one different in form, mood, color, beat, scale, and key. There are no cadenzas. Each is separate. Each can stand by itself. But its fullest meaning, ti seems to me, is when it is seen together with the others.

I joked about 18 Cantos this morning; it’s one of my absolute favorite print works ever. [And no, I don’t have a copy, so no, I will not be breaking it up and giving it away to random Twitter followers.]
But it just occurred to me that Newman’s perception of the lithograph stone as an instrument to be played, not a medium to be translated, is very similar to Richard Prince’s early approach to photography.
Here’s just one example from Prince’s Canal Zone deposition, when questioned about a 2003 Artforum Q&A where he said he “played the camera”:

I was extremely–to tell you the truth, I was extremely conservative, on the other hand, in terms of my artistic attitude.
And I knew that in order to maybe discover something new I had to change a bit and take on another persona. And I felt that by playing, quote, as I said in the interview, the camera, just like a punk rock guitarist who picks up a guitar, seven days later he’s playing on stage. He doesn’t know how to play the guitar, but it’s his inability which shines through, which is really exciting. And the fact that he’s not a virtuoso–it’s the very limitations I think that make–can actually make great art.

Newman’s statement is published as “Preface to 18 Cantos” in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews [amazon]
Arcy Douglass’s 2008 post about 18 Cantos, then on exhibit at the Portland Art Museum [portlandart.net]

Gig: The Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference, Friday 9/28, 2PM

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I am stoked and a bit daunted to be participating in a session on appropriation at this year’s Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference. It will be this coming Friday at PS1, as part of the NY Art Book Fair, and will take place in the Performance Dome:

2:00-3:30 pm
Appropriation and Intellectual Property
Debates on the the legal complexity of appropriated imagery have resurfaced in light of a recent lawsuit between artist Richard Prince and photographer Patrick Cariou. Artists Greg Allen and Eric Doeringer and lawyer Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento will discuss notions of “fair use” and “transformation” with our digital culture, as well as the question of how copyright law should adapt to rapidly evolving artistic practices and whether copyright law might constitute a medium in and of itself. Organized and moderated by Stephen Bury.

I hope you can come to the Fair, of course, because it is amazing. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll come by the session. It’s a big dome, and it’ll feel even bigger if it’s empty.
CABC Conference Sessions [nyartbookfair]
image: from DJ Francois and Juan Atkins’ performance during the MoMA PS1 Kraftwerk Festival, via timeout