BITS: Prince’s Jokes (Explained) & $treet Art

It’s Not Funny if You Have to Explain It

RICHARD PRINCE Untitled Joke Painting, 2009 Collage and acrylic on canvas. 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm.) Signed and dated “R. Prince 2009” on the reverse. ESTIMATE $350,000-450,000 PROVENANCE Gagosian Gallery, New York Photo via Phillips dePury & Company

Phillips dePury has topped past unintentionally funny catalog copy with a new gem describing Lot 30 in it’s upcoming Contemporary Art Auction.  Lauding Richard Prince’s “Untitled Joke Painting,” dePury opens with this dubious gusher:

“Richard Prince’s Joke Paintings have remained a constant high point within the artist’s output for over two decades.”

Mm-hmm: Yes. Yes they have remained the high point. Sadly.

Then, having prepped us with the bad news, dePury goes on to do the WORST thing you can ever do to a comic: they EXPLAIN his joke!

“The work is technically lush, utilizing both acrylic and collage. The centered block letters read, in nine rows, “I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name. Again, I never had a penn.” Prince’s obvious joke is corroborated by letters cut in half, and even missing with respect to final “y” in penny. One must assume that he did not have enough to his name even to get the text set correctly.”

Yeah. Heh heh. That must be it.

Oh, but there’s a leetle bit more: in case you missed that other funny…

“Interestingly, the joke Prince prints across the present lot is entirely unrelated to the subject of nurses, and thus the viewer might be left wondering what the connection is between the subject and its background. …If what he has collected also amounts to the oeuvre he has amassed, perhaps it’s simply natural for one piece to pratfall over another.”

Thank you. We might otherwise have assumed that Richard Prince just had a few nurses to get rid of.

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“Street Art” is Just a Word for “Emerging Designer”

We’ve all seen it. Shep, Damien, Banksy… they started out hanging from the eves with a spray can, and ended up hawking t-shirts and limited edition art objects online.  Yet even the advent of “Mr. Brainwash” didn’t really force us to just come out and SAY it.

But hell, now it’s time: The streets are just a starter kit for emerging artists with “urban” flavor: the goal is a corporate brand like OBEY or Objective Criteria.

Still, The Guardian sought out, Jeffrey Deitch, for the final word on street art as “big business.”

“Today, somebody does a tag in Russia, China, Japan, or Africa, a friend photographs it and within a few hours it’ll be viewed on websites all over the world,” says Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which recently opened a major show on the subject. “I think you can make a good case that street art is now the most influential art movement of the past 30 years. The penetration of urban culture is huge, and it’s influencing everything from skateboard design to high fashion. Some of these guys have even been hired to design Louis Vuitton handbags.”

MOCA Treats Street Art Like Street Art

Blu's Blog

Begging the question of whether it’s still “street art” if you commission it for a Museum, Jeffrey Deitch, director of LA’s  Museum of Contemporary Art, had a freshly completed mural by Italian street artist, Blu, immediately white washed.

Looks like street art to me!

The rather heavy-handed mural depicting military coffins draped with out-sized dollar bills instead of flags (get it?), graced the north wall of the Geffen Contemporary Building for only the time it took to document it as part of the exhibit for the show’s catalog.

MOCA’s official statement says that the mural was “inappropriate” and pointed out that The Geffen Contemporary building’s north wall sits directly in front of the Go For Broke Monument that commemorates Japanese American soldiers and is very near the Veterans Affairs building.

Deitch told reporters that the issue is not censorship but timing: “Blu was supposed to fly out the second-to-last week in November, so we could have conversations about it in advance,. But he said he had to change his flights, so he ended up working in isolation without any input.”

Immediate comparisons to the Smithsonian/Wojnarowicz debacle show just how sensitive the creative community is these days to any hint of censorship.

But, Deitch dismisses any similarity in the cases:
“Look at my gallery website — I have supported protest art more than just about any other mainstream gallery in the country. But as a steward of a public institution, I have to balance a different set of priorities — standing up for artists and also considering the sensitivities of the community.”

Deitch also claims that he and the artist are “on friendly terms, ” but Blu’s blog features a photo of the naked wall with the capton, “A really nice, big wall, in downtown L.A.”

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Blu’s Blog

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ADDENDUM: Via Hyperallergic: Blu claims that Deitch’s mural kill is indeed “censorship”; airs e-mail exchanges that challenge Deitch’s statements. This, likely, will turn into a fine back and forth. And in this hypersensitive atmosphere where artists, arts institutions, and pressure groups feel they are at war, issues like this one are bound to escalate. It is my own opinion that MOCA may not have dealt honestly with the artist and the public, but that the removal of the mural was not censorship. The commission was a blunder and the PR has been less than honest: period.

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