Richard Prince: The Figures
Luxembourg & Dayan, New York
April 23 - June 6, 2015
Luxembourg & Dayan presented Richard Prince: The Figures (2015) at its New York gallery. The exhibition explored the artist’s longstanding interest in figure drawing that dates back to the 1970s.
When Prince arrived in New York City in August 1974, he enrolled in a figure drawing class despite it being out of fashion for the period—this, in fact, being a quality that enticed Prince. He viewed figurative illustrated as a beginning, a tradition continued by El Greco, Francisco Goya, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Sigmar Polke, and R. Crumb. Drawing the nude was fundamental. Prince recalls, “It’s what I loved to do.” He was familiar with the work of Robert Smithson, Bruce Nauman, Eva Hesse, and Hannah Wilke, but also Walt Kuhn, Alice Neel, Abner Dean, Gregory Gillespie, George Tooker, Whitney Darrow Jr., James Avati, and William Bailey. In the summer of 1974, Prince wanted to continue a tradition—not start something new.
Prince describes his interest in human flesh as “second nature,” something he returns to between other ideas and work in different mediums. Figure study is a solitary activity. He makes it part of his day; he goes to museums, tries to find an empty room, and sits and stares at the scale of the human form. He states, “In my mind, the ‘conventions’; of the figure is what’s cool. Trying to make something different out of something that’s already been done to death makes me bend over backward, hold my breath and count to ten. I take a pulse. It’s faint. But I feel it. It’s barely there. Flat line? Almost. But I hold on. Lay it on me. Give me some skin. Give me some bones. It’s just like that The Mamas and the Papas song… ‘I’m in the mood for love.’”