Richard Prince - Canal Zone

RICHARD PRINCE, Naked Confessions, 2008, collage, inkjet, and acrylic on canvas, 45 3/16 x 46 inches (114.8 x 116.8 cm) ​© Richard Prince

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Opening reception for the artist: Saturday, November 8th, from 6 to 8pm

The story was basically about a guy who lands in St Barth, gets off the plane, is immediately told that there’s been a nuclear holocaust in the rest of the world, and he looks at his family and says ‘We can’t go back.’
—Richard Prince

Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce “Canal Zone,” an exhibition of new paintings by Richard Prince.

Following his burlesque dialogues with the art of De Kooning, Picasso, and Naughty Nurse pulp fiction, Prince has turned to his own biographical roots for inspiration. The Panama Canal Zone, where he was born, was, until 1979, a political exclave of the U.S., part-colonial company enclave and part-socialist government, purportedly dominated by virulent separatist racism. In his characteristic manner, Prince has transformed the former reality of his birthplace into a fictive space: “Canal Zone” provides an anarchic tropical scenario in which extreme emanations of the (white American male) id—fleshy female pin-ups, Rastafarians with massive dreadlocks, electric guitars, and virile black bodies—run riot.

Aside from their “storyboard” looks and their ability to absorb information based on Prince’s original “pitch,” what is evidently new in these paintings is the way they are, literally, “put together,” like provisional magazine lay-outs. Some images, scanned from originals, are printed directly onto the base canvas; others are “dragged on,” using a primitive collage technique whereby printed figures are roughly cut out, then the backs of those figures painted and pasted directly onto the base canvas with a squeegee so that the excess paint squirts out on and around the image. On top of this are violently suggestive swipes and drips of livid paint and scribbles of oil-stick crayon which, together with the comic, abstract sign-features that mask each figure’s face, add to the powerful push-pull between degree and effect. This has become a completely new way for Prince to make a painting, where much of what shows up on the surface is incidental to the process.

Thomas More’s Utopia of 1518 described a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean that possessed a seemingly perfect socio-political-legal system. Since then, the term has been used both for intentional communities attempting to create ideal societies and ideals that are impossible to achieve.  Prince’s island and its unfettered imaginings that vacillate between humorous delinquency and Sadeian excess, is a rather more carnivalesque response to the original concept. “Canal Zone,” this orgiastic, post-nuclear, new order for civilization as we once knew it, takes its place among other great modern visions of the apocalypse, from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, to The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Michel Houllebecq’s prophetic Platform.

Richard Prince was born in 1949 in the Panama Canal Zone and lives and works in upstate New York. His work has been the subject of major exhibitions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Serpentine Gallery, London (2008). A retrospective survey opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2007 and traveled to The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in 2008.

For further information, please contact the Melissa Passman at [email protected] or 212.741.1111.


Gagosian Gallery was established in 1980 by Larry Gagosian.