Already an art historical icon of the 1980s, Richard Prince's Joke Paintings are a brilliant commentary on painting's role as the highest art form. Through ironic, authorless jokes, often off-color and tactless, Prince managed to combine this unconventional subject matter with the discourse of high art at the time. His Joke Paintings, like this outstanding example, often borrow from two genres sources: the monochromatic school of painting-- minimal, mechanical, and pared down in painterly expression, California Pop, and of course, Warhol. The works seem to be a joke on painting's seriousness, and a joke that painting should be labored over.
Combining all of his methods of working, the Joke Paintings are at once drawings of text and paintings, while sharing the same flat even surface of his photography. While others of his generation spent the 1980's reveling in the recovered heroics of painting, Prince, in this seminal body of work, was testing the boundaries of what a painting could be.
"Prince is still obsessed with the American libido, style and humor. His approach to art making also continues to expose several false distinctions: the presumed dichotomy between the copy and the original, between the normal and the uncanny; between the public and private; fact and fiction". (L. Phillips, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p. 48).
John Baldessari, Tips for Artists, 1967-68
Courtesy of the artist, collection of The Broad Art Foundation