Richard Prince: Super Group
While Richard Prince is most often discussed for his strategies as an appropriation artist—from Marlboro cowboys in the 1980s to Instagram portraits today—it is his own work as a painter that stands at the center of his approach: starting with paintings of jokes and cartoons, following up with, among other things, nurses and cowboys taken from the covers of dime novels, and freewheeling riffs on Picasso and de Kooning. For his extensive new series Super Group, Prince uses objects loaded with meaning: the inner sleeves of vinyl records, which he collages on the canvas and then overpaints with band names, abstract washes, and funny figures. The book shows 51 works, engaging with questions of our identity—after all, we define ourselves by the music we listen to. In two texts the artist explores the cultural ramifications and shares the joy of discovery: “I’d been working with sleeves on and off for four years, they weren’t right, they weren’t finished. They didn’t have extra extra. They had a verse and bridge but they didn’t have a hook. Super Group became the hook. I can stack Roy Orbison, Chuck D, Bill Evans, Patsy Cline, The Pretenders, and Lee Ranaldo on one sleeve . . . The whole sleeve can be a hit.” Accordingly, this whole volume can be a hit, translating Prince’s vision through images and texts into an artist’s book.
(excerpt from the text by Richard Prince)
Six years ago I took a sleeve out of a vinyl album and looked at it and liked the foxing, the beige color, the yellowing, the creases, the weight of the paper, the two-sidedness of the construction and the hole. It also had inherited meaning.I picked up a pencil and signed it to myself from Richard Hell. I wrote, “From One Richard To Another, Richard Hell 1977.” It wasn’t real, but it was real for me.
I glued the sleeve to an album-size canvas and hung it on my studio wall.
I kept it there for another year. This was like 2008.
Nothing much happened after that. I kept looking at the Richard Hell sleeve. And kept thinking about making more but the idea of turning record sleeves into fake memorabilia didn’t really excite me.
In 2011 I was checking out my collection of Sonic Youth albums. I pulled out the records and removed the records from the sleeves. There were nine sleeves. I laid out the sleeves in a grid, three on top of three on top of three. Another square. I looked at it and called it Nine Sonic Youths. That excited me. The name, the title connected the abstraction and made it less abstract. It looked like art. It looked like an Agnes Martin with holes. It was creamy.
Want to make art? Don’t.
The next one I did was 16 Kinks.I only had six Kinks albums so I had to go out to a vinyl store and buy ten more Kinks. Going to the record store changed. It wasn’t just about buying albums. There was a new purpose to going to a record store.
16 Kinks was the first time I started calling them the Sleeve Paintings.
The next was the Beatles.
I did 87 Beatles.
9 Sonic Youths and 16 Kinks were simply pasted.
The property of the sleeves weren’t touched. The difference in their individuality wasn’t messed with. Their tones were all that mattered. I was making something basic. Really simple. The given patterns and “aging” was what I was looking at.
The Beatles were the first sleeves I painted. There were so many I used a two-part canvas and the way I stuck them to the canvas was with white and off-white acrylic paint. Things got messy. Fits and starts. There were mistakes made and I had so many sleeves to choose from, I would rip some off and put other ones in their place. I had like fifteen copies of Revolver. Using paint as glue became a happy ingredient. The right ingredient. I went to town. “Sergeant Pepper told the band to play.” I was ripping it up.
After the 87 Beatles, I worked on a small canvas and started to use 45 “single” sleeves and paid attention to sleeves that had lyrics printed on them. I also discovered you could order sleeves over the internet. The mail ordering changed the making.
I could order hundreds of sleeves. Black ones. White ones. Ones that looked like the color of a manila envelope.
I was listening to Chuck Berry and wrote down his lyric “riding along in my automobile” on a sleeve.
It made the idea of “collecting” more important. Prominent.
I did the same with the Def Leppard font.
Looking at what I listened to.
So that’s what happened . . .