Today’s NY Times has a very interesting article on Richard Prince. Jim Kranz, a Midwestern ad photog, discusses his feelings about having his Marlboro ads lifted by the conceptual artist. While I can definitely sympathize with Mr. Krantz, if I walked into the Guggenheim and saw one of my photographs with someone elses name on , I would also freak, for lack of a better word. But I do understand Prince’s use of ad images. He is really lifting concepts from the American Media cannon, Mr. Krantz’s image is secondary. Also, because it was a commercial assignment, the original photographer has already been compensated for his work. What is more interesting to me, is that Mr. Prince’s work is actually outdated. When he was making his appropriated images, artist/photographer’s were not being hired to commerical assignments, and fashion photographer’s were not being heralded as artists. (See Art Basel & fashion article) So by borrowing from the commerical world at that time, Prince was not only saying something about American media culture, but about the nature of photography and what is means to be an art photographer. I think his work was very important, but now that the lines of art & commerce have blurred, and fine-art photographers are making so much money, perhaps his statement seems moot. I do not think that takes away from the accomplishment of his work, I just think it is hard to see it in the same context now. That is perhaps the danger of conceptual and really all art, the world changes, and if your work is very much of its time, how does it age? Prince is having his star moment in the art world, but it is happening when the statement is his work is less powerful. When he began, his ideas seemed radical, but now it is often difficult to distinguish between – art photographers, and commercial photographers. PL di Corcia has a contract with W Magazine. Taryn Simon, Collier Shorr and Elinor Carucci & Katherine Wolkoff are all repped by Art + Commerce agency. Molly Logan has started Fred & associates to rep fine-art photographers and she is very involved with Blind Spot Magazine. It seems that there are no longer any boundaries. Of course Walker Evans worked for Fortune Magazine, Steichen was a fashion photog and Diane Arbus started out shooting fashion. I think that the main difference is intent. Is your work being made to provoke or reflect culture, or is it begin made to sell something. Of course as the years go by, sometimes the commercial work begins to tell more about the culture then the art photo. This seems to be a time of transition for ‘art photography’ and perhaps that is why Prince is so much in the spotlight. His ideas about the blending of the two forms have come to fruition. I think what does remain most relevant in the Prince’s work is his statement on the commodification of art and exclusivity in ownership. Here is use of apropriation is still on target.

From the current Exhibit at the Guggenheim Spiritual America

Prince’s work has been among the most innovative art produced in the United States during the past 30 years. His deceptively simple act in 1977 of rephotographing advertising images and presenting them as his own ushered in an entirely new, critical approach to art-making—one that questioned notions of originality and the privileged status of the unique aesthetic object. Prince’s technique involves appropriation; he pilfers freely from the vast image bank of popular culture to create works that simultaneously embrace and critique a quintessentially American sensibility: the Marlboro Man, muscle cars, biker chicks, off-color jokes, gag cartoons, and pulp fiction. While previous examinations of his art have emphasized its central role as a catalyst for postmodernist criticism, the Guggenheim exhibition and its accompanying catalogue also focus on the work’s iconography and how it registers prevalent themes in our social landscape, including a fascination with rebellion, an obsession with fame, and a preoccupation with the tawdry and the illicit.

If you go to Mr. Krantz’s website, it is pretty clear that his ad work is very much about the iconography of the alpha American male. My guess it that he has profited quite a bit from his ability to create a certain kind of image. I am actually more afraid of what Mr. Krantz’s work say about our cuture, then what Richard Prince’s work reflects. This is of course not Mr. Krantz’s fault, it is a view into the heart of current American values.

Image of Mr. Krantz’s borrowed by Richard Prince

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Source Images

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Wow, Ronald is working off his Super Size meals, a good role model for McDonald’s customers.

 

 

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