Untitled (Cowboy)



152.4 × 228.6 cm (60 × 90 in)

Among the major themes that run through his work, Richard Prince notably appropriated that of advertising and the construction of icons in American society. With his series Untitled (Cowboy), Richard Prince plays on the ambiguity between distancing the American myth and the irresistible attraction it arouses. Prince's work does not involve the original production of images but rather their reproduction or appropriation, as he situates himself more on the side of the commentator.

In this series, the artist portrays a virile cowboy, the hero of a famous cigarette brand, who is the master of a domesticated and idealized nature. By leaving the traces of his direct appropriation of magazine advertisements clearly visible—bits of tape, tears in the gutter—Prince leaves no doubt about the nature of his purloining.

What are we looking at when we look at the simulation of an image that is itself a simulation? Where is the line between reality and invention? Prince's answer to the question “Who are we?”, the subject of the eternal American quest for identity, is here post-utopian, a moment when reality disappears, giving way to idealized reflections. “We are images,” might be his reply.