A dynamic work featuring Richard Prince’s iconic method of appropriation, My Best fuses together a beguiling abstract composition and a decontextualised joke, between which there is no direct correlation. Below the nebulous and intriguing atmosphere, the viewer is forced to try to discern the appropriate reaction to Prince’s somewhat sinister humour. In this series of silkscreens produced in the late 1990s, Prince constructs his own physical context around the written joke. The varied colours and contrasting nuclei-like black scribbles do not convey an explicit message nor do they collectively portray a distinct image; conversely, they force the viewer to ponder the work in its entirety and consider the function of art.
When asked why he first started telling jokes, Richard Prince responded, ‘I never really started telling. I started telling them over’ (R. Prince in an interview, ‘Like a Beautiful Scar on your Head’, in Modern Painters, Special American Issue, Vol. 15 No. 3, Autumn 2002). His response, though it circumvents the question, is immensely telling; it alludes to the fundamental mechanism of appropriation behind not only My Best, but also his entire body of work. By adopting and subsequently recontextualising images, text, and objects ensconced in American culture, Prince brings into question traditional notions of art, as well as broader ideas of authorship and individuality.
By appropriating archetypal images and jokes from past Americana, and adding to and altering their meaning through new mediums, Prince creates entirely new and innovative artwork. In My Best, Prince departs from his blatant appropriation of pop culture images and monochromatic washes of color. The work is neither commonplace nor obvious; instead, it is a synthesis of Prince’s sense of humour and intellectualism. My Best is an exceptional example of Prince’s provocative and multifaceted approach towards art.