Summary

In this work, produced in an edition of two, nine images in three rows alternately depict mountain peaks thrusting through fields of clouds or monster trucks starting their ascent up precipitous inclines. Similar trucks featured in an earlier work, Creative Evolution 1985, where the collecting together of similar images drew attention to the low camera angles used to emphasize the trucks’ awe-inspiring size. A related work, Creative Evolution 2 1985/86, paired close-ups of the noses of street racer cars and trucks with the open jaws of sharks. These works, each collections of stereotypical macho symbols, are meditations on masculinity and desire. This interest in identity, stereotypes and characterizations is also central to Prince’s most iconic photographic works, his images of cowboys, re-photographed from magazine advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes.

Creative Evolution 3 is one of Prince’s so-called ‘gangs’ of photographs – a term used by photographic labs, referring to the printing of a number of juxtaposed images on a single piece of paper. Prince has used the gangs as a means of investigating character types. The pictures Prince used in his gangs are found images, collected from sources such as magazines. Prince re-photographed the images and joined the 35mm slides together to make the final printed work.

In the mid-1970s, Prince worked for a period at Time-Life publishers in New York, in a job involving tearing the editorial sheets from magazines to send to the contributors. With these pages removed, the magazines were left with only the advertisements, the ‘authorless pages’ as Prince called them (Richard Prince, exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992, p.129). Prince started photographing the images directly from the magazines, often reframing and cropping them to emphasize certain features or similarities. This period has continued to inform and influence his photographic work.

This radical appropriation of images put Prince, along with other artists of his generation like Sherrie Levine (born 1947) and Louise Lawler (born 1947), at the forefront of postmodernist photographic practice. But while Levine’s work challenges notions of authorship and artistic gesture, Prince’s grouping of the images in gangs had the effect more of objectifying the images. Grouping similar objects creates a relationship between them which, with the images decontextualised, isolated and cropped, becomes more important than their individual representations.

Further reading:
Jeff Rian, Rosetta Brooks and Luc Sante, Richard Prince, London, 2003.
Richard Prince, exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992.
Richard Prince: Photographien/Photographs 1977-1993, exhibition catalogue, Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, 1994.

Maria Bilske