Richard Prince: Early Joke Paintings

Richard Prince Skarstedt Gallery

An exhibition of early ‘joke paintings’ by American artist Richard Prince. Spanning the period 1988 – 1992, this will be the first opportunity to view a dedicated exhibition of this important body of work in the UK.

Beginning in 1984, Richard Prince began assembling one-line gag cartoons and ‘borscht belt’ jokes from the 1950s which he redrew onto small pieces of paper. Following the hand-written jokes and subsequent works in which cartoon images were silkscreened onto canvas, in 1987 Prince adopted a more radical, formulaic strategy of mechanically reproducing classic one-liners and gags onto a flat monochrome canvas.

Going against the prevailing artistic genre of expressive gestural painting in the 1980s, the silkscreened jokes subvert the formal language of abstract painting, mixing high and low culture. With a block of coloured text on a warm but contrasting background, the monochromatic joke paintings compositionally mimic the Color Field painters of the 1950s and 60s, notably Rothko’s three-tiered compositions in “What a Kid I Was” (3 Times) from 1989. In this work, the repetition of the anecdote highlights the notions of seriality, authorship and mechanical reproduction that is central not only to this series of paintings but to Prince’s work as a whole. Inspired by his Pop-Art predecessor Ed Ruscha, the contrast of the bright red text against the monochrome surface heightens the optical potential of the words.

The exhibition will also include key works from Prince’s ‘White Paintings’ series executed during the early 1990s. Unlike the monochromatic jokes, these paintings are characterised by their raw energy, mixing gestural marks, overlaid silkscreened imagery and text. Engaging directly with Abstract Expressionism – the dominant painting style of his youth, Prince remixes the same visual elements, analogous to the ‘sampling’ process applied in rap music.




Duration 26 June 2018 - 03 August 2018
Times Tuesday - Friday 10.00am - 6:00pm Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm
Cost Free
Venue Skarstedt Gallery
Address 8 Bennet Street, London, SW1A 1RP
Contact 442074995200 / /