Richard Prince‘s latest stirring exhibition, “Prince/Picasso,” encouraged by the Museo Picasso Malanga, reflects his two-year intensive exploration of Pablo Picasso. 63-year-old Prince has said of Picasso, “He never lets go of the body.” Prince shares Picasso’s infatuation with the female form. The result here is a menagerie of female nakedness: engorged limbs, abundant, rounded bottoms, twisting torsos, undulating breasts, and faces scratched out and replaced with mask-like sketches or Picasso’s own statuesque heads. Prince is undoubtedly channeling Picasso’s famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), among other works, and the images accumulate one by one like a collage fetish diary.
Prince magnifies the erotic in Picasso’s paintings, and then claims it for himself. This daring ability to redefine concepts of authenticity makes him one of the most coveted contemporary artists living today. With every artistic turn, the American painter and photographer courts controversy. Prince’s work revels in the appropriation of images both culturally familiar and sexually latent—think Marlboro Man cowboy sunsets, biker chicks pressed against gleaming Harleys, pulpy romance novel jacket covers, and celebrity headshots. It’s impossible not to mention his use of Gary Gross’s disturbing 1976 photograph depicting a naked, 10-year-old Brooke Shields. The image, re-titled Spiritual America, was set to appear in Prince’s 2009 exhibition at The Tate Modern in London. The show was subsequently withdrawn because the picture potentially violated England’s obscenity laws. More recently, Prince and the Gagosian Gallery were ordered to destroy 35 pictures that unlawfully included the French photographer Patrick Cariou’s haunting Rastafarian images.
Prince’s conversation with Picasso’s work is both arresting and authorized. To commemorate the 2012 exhibition of Prince’s work at The Museo Picasso Malaga, a linen-bound art book Prince/Picasso presents images from this collaboration for the first time. Prince/Picasso is priced at $55 and is available online.