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Untitled (Cowboy)

  • 1994
  • Richard Prince
  • Satiny Chromogenic Color Print
  • 152.4 x 101.6 cm (with frame)
First conceived in 1954, “Marlboro Man” aimed to convert a male public to filter-tip cigarettes, which had previously been targeting women. To inject virility into the product, the cigarettes were shown being smoked by strong, free men, epitomised by the cowboy. The cowboy figure was popular in film and advertising aimed at men, and was emblematic of the success of North American popular culture immediately after the war. This archetypal figure evokes conquest, frontiers and the taming of nature in a reworked version of European romanticism. Prince borrowed this advertising icon and reframed it. He cut out the text and logo and enlarged it to reveal the grain of the photo. In doing so, he deconstructed the image while maintaining its power of seduction. The mechanisms of advertising were revealed, but the attraction remained present. Strong, solitary and mysterious, the cowboy stands out against the ochre background of the American desert. The arid landscape – blue sky, rocky mountains, dusty sand dunes – appear as one with the man and his horse, turning the sand into an ocean of colour.

© Richard Prince. Photo © Louis Vuitton / Sun Shi

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Richard Prince

Richard Prince belongs to the generation of American artists who grew up in the 1950s at the time of the explosion of mass media (television, cinema, magazines)

He appeared on the international scene during the late 1970s alongside Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine and Barbara Kruger, as a major proponent of appropriation art. He deconstructed the mechanisms of representation and communication promoted by American popular culture. In 1977 his practice took a radical turn when he started re-using advertising images, which he photographed and appropriated. Cutting out the text and logo, he reframed the images, creating blurred effects and emphasising colour. Working largely in series, his subjects were models, cowboys and women on motorbikes. Prince turned the cowboy into an emblematic, complex object, expressing nostalgia for a mythical, foundational period while highlighting the stereotype through clichés.

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