By Andrew Rudansky
Guild Hall is opening its doors to famed artist Richard Prince this Saturday, August 13, for a premier of his new collection. The show entitled, “Covering Pollock,” uses photographs of the artist Jackson Pollock as both inspiration and canvas, while expressing Prince’s unique perspective on how to approach art.
Prince, born in Panama in 1949, works in a multi-media format with extensive usage of appropriated images. As an appropriation artist, he takes found imagery and puts it into his own original compositions.
This collection, which he has been working on since 2009, is comprised of 27 new works that have never been shown publicly. By combining acrylic paint, with photographs of famous pop icons, commercial pornography, canceled checks and other recognizable imagery, Prince is able to compress and then channel popular culture through his original artwork.
Prince uses stark photographs of Jackson Pollack and his wife Lee Krasner at their East Hampton home as templates on which to build. His paintings can be seen as commentary of both Pollack himself and the concept of the artist in general.
Christina Mossaides Strassfield, museum director and chief curator for Guild Hall said that the show will be infused with a fair dose of pop culture, it will feature “a lot of images that are recognizable to the public…Jackson Pollack at work, images from art history books, as well as photos of musicians and models.”
The work itself is presented mostly in black and white, with little color added. This austere lack of color projects a sense of moroseness to the viewer; this somber feeling hangs over much of Prince’s work. In many of the photos, Pollock is partially or completely obstructed by other images. His simultaneous presence and hidden nature in the collection is reflective of Pollock’s own personality; that of the famous recluse.
On top of the photos of Pollock are photos of deceased punk legend Sid Vicious, British model Kate Moss, as well as images of vintage pornography. The artist has said that he included these images because of his interest in imagining what Pollock would be doing and who he would be as an artist if he was alive today.
The juxtaposition of photographs creates a conversation between the subjects. Pollock as a celebrity, as a hero, as a pariah and as a subversive.
One work in the collection in particular, “Untitled (Covering Pollock)” — none of the paintings in the collection have individual names — seems to capture the urgency and voyeurism present in the entire collection. The painting uses the iconic 1956 photo of Pollock’s flipped over car on Fireplace Road, East Hampton as a base. The car is framed in the lower right of the painting, and surrounded by smaller photos of Pollock and Krasner. The resulting image is confrontational and engaging, allowing the viewer a window into Pollock’s untimely death.
Pollock is not the only East End artist that has given inspiration to Prince. Starting in 2007, he used Pollock’s friend Willem de Kooning to create another series of appropriation artwork.
“It was time to pay homage to an artist I really like. Some people worship at the altar — I believe in de Kooning,” Prince said at the 2011 opening of his de Kooning inspired show. Strassfield said that this current exhibit is very much in the same vein as the de Kooning show, and if that show was his homage to de Kooning, this show opening Saturday would certainly be his homage to Pollock.
Strassfield called Richard Prince one of the preeminent appropriation artists, an artist who has focused his talents into creating thought provoking artwork since the late 1970s.
“He is one of the leaders of [the appropriation] movement,” Strassfield said. “His work is eye opening…the public will be very interested to see it.”
Prince’s works have been featured in various museums around the country; highlights include exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, as well as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Prince also received the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner in the Visual Arts from Guild Hall in 2009.
The show runs from Saturday, August 13 until October 17 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. This Sunday, August 14, there will be a Guild Hall “Members Preview” from 4-5 p.m. and a free public opening reception from 5-6 p.m. After the night of the opening, there will be a $7 suggested donation for non-members to view the exhibit. Guild Hall also wishes to advise that the exhibit will feature mature content. For more information about the show please contact Guild Hall at 324-0806 or go on their website at GuildHall.org.