These strange effigies of shamelessly sexual beings are inspired by Willem de Kooning's celebrated Women paintings from the early 1950s. Untitled (de Kooning) forms part of a body of work dedicated to the Abstract Expressionist master that Prince created after the painterly interventions of his popular Nurse series. Like the Nurses, the de Kooning cycle involves the transference of found, printed images onto canvas via inkjet printer. Prince then paints over the enlarged original material, using it as a basis for his experiments with fluid pigment and new compositional elements. The de Kooning paintings are significant for Prince as they apply his strategies of appropriation to another artist's work for the very first time. "It was time to pay homage to an artist I really like," Prince explains. "Some people worship at the altar--I believe in de Kooning" (R. Prince, quoted in S. Daly, "Richard Prince's Outside Streak," Vanity Fair, December 2007, Issue 568, p. 337).
Prince's complicated process of selection, addition and adaption can be seen as an extension of de Kooning's own practice as the elder artist famously pasted the smiling mouth from a cigarette ad onto one of his early Women paintings. In the present work, Prince has cobbled together a Frankenstein-like montage of photographs from vintage porn magazines, reproductions of de Kooning artworks, and his own drawn and painted components. The result is a sprawling female nude and a hermaphroditic male whose wildly gesturing multiple limbs evoke both the violent metamorphoses of de Kooning's images and the biomorphic abstraction of Pablo Picasso. The figures, and the sea of seductively flurried brushwork that surrounds them, speak of a passionate and immediate engagement unexpected in an artist widely known for the cool detachment of his re-photographed advertisements. At once titillating and disturbing, the laughably grotesque couple are hybrids on a number of levels. They merge the male with the female, painting with photography, and the refinement of high art with decidedly low-culture leanings. Thus the work flaunts all the elements that have provided Prince with his notoriety--the hint of sleazy sex, the 'theft' of pop-culture imagery, and an ironic commentary on the infatuations of American society.