Richard Prince has been an avid bibliophile since the early 1980s when he began collecting first edition books. In his vivid series of recent paintings, Richard Prince appropriates the covers of romance novels from his collection of 1950s trashy fiction novels (the artist has asserted that he doesn't see any difference between what he collects and what he makes), featuring comely nurses in varying pulp fiction situations--Jet Set Nurse, Tender Nurse, Surfing Nurse, and Crazy Man Nurse among them. The nurse as subject idea had a media version in Prince's sexy photo of model Kate Moss in a patent leather nurse's uniform, published in W Magazine in 2003. Ink jetting the imagery onto canvas and exploding the scale, Prince allows just enough of the original Pop charm of these vintage covers to evoke our nostalgia for the lost innocence of the 1950s, and then obscures the imagery with dripping layers of paint in vibrant color and passionate gesture. As he has done so prodigiously since the late 1970s with borrowed imagery from popular media, Prince expands his investigation of authorship and authenticity in this ambitious series of paintings. He reloads this imagery, reiterating it with a new identity, a new fiction.
"Re-photographed pictures that have been previously available to the
public are, in effect, ordained, and weigh significantly more than the spiritual displacement they sometimes suggest. Artificial intelligence, to the particular. The particulars, existing with the picture, contain sensory detail. These details can be terrifyingly beautiful." (R. Prince as quoted by Hatja Cantz, Richard Prince: Photographs, p.144)
Intimate Nurse, is a rare full-figure portrait, his provocative subject appears to be removing the last of her uniform--the only nurse from the series to be so revealed. Her knees press together in a demurring posture; her face and her intention are obscured behind her mask. In her starched white cap and conservative underwear she appears vulnerable. But as she emerges from a dark corridor, something is sinister and strangely calm in her eyes. The tension Prince has created in this composition of opposites is almost cinematic. What has she just done? What is she about to do,--as red drips and smears of paint suggesting blood drip down her shoulders, stomach and legs? Is she a victim herself, or a psychopathic killer? The paperback original of this fetishized naughty nurse is transmuted into something threatening, evoking more dread than lust.
As the allure of the sexy subject is leveled by the gravity of the Abstract Expressionist sensibility, she gains power as an image. Like a De Kooning woman, she is goddess/temptress, activated by the force and finesse of Prince's abstract expressionist gesture. Pleasure and pain; desire and fear; beauty and gore polarize the composition and complicate any single interpretation.
Like his sex-driven biker chicks and rugged Marlboro men, Prince exaggerates stereotypes to exhaust the mythology of American subcultures. In Intimate Nurse, he works the mythology of the care giving, healing protagonist, and investigates her darkly erotic shadow-opposite. Her face behind the veil is up to the viewer to interpret, naughty or nice, a cipher for the viewer's fantasy. "Informed by a particularly tough-minded conceptualism, [the work] can make you squirm a bit as you try to come to grips with its complex program and submerged logic. What concerns Prince is the manipulation of consciousness and the construction of the counterfeit." (D. Ross, Richard Prince, New York, 1992, p.15)