© Philippe Parreno © Richard Prince © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage
For "Untitled (cowboy)" (1994), Richard Prince uses an image from a Marlboro advertising campaign which he employed for a long series of works initiated in the 1980s.
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.