The Chatterbox Hotel, 1990
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. 56 x 48 1/4 in. (142.2 x 122.6 cm). Signed, titled and dated "R. Prince 'The Chatterbox Hotel' 1990" on the overlap.
PROVENANCE Gagosian Gallery, New York
Is a Joke a material? To a Comedian it is. There is the material and then there is the timing and the delivery of the material, which makes it an act. He says "my act" or "my material" but he also has a way of disappearing behind these things, almost to the point where there is no more me, only material, like that joke about the psychiatrist doing my act now. Every comedian, every artist, is constantly scandalized about being robbed, and they're right because material has a way of getting away from us, like language. It's what it does, and maybe it never really belonged to us in the first place. For example, the neurotic on the couch who repeats himself (his life) not the crowd of the analysts ear, who's already heard it all before. The Joke is about not being able to hang onto yourself, about not being able to tell your own story, and also about transference. Richard Prince, "Canaries in the Goldmine," Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 2006 p. 123 Throughout his career Richard Prince has explored, examined and experimented with the concepts of appropriation. Beginning in the late 1980's (1985-1987) he began to create what he referred to as Joke Paintings. He created his first monochromatic Joke paintings between 1987 and 1989. The monochromatic Joke paintings continued Prince's foray into creating a comedic dialogue with high art and culture. In a Joke painting, Prince both spaces and times the material across the canvas, sometimes making it repeat and stutter in that tough, blank space, until it begins to do the painting's act too. It's working the room, the canvas. It's hard to say if the painting is ripping off the material or if it's the other way around. And what we are tempted to call the comic timing of the painting has to do with the way the material takes over its surface, sometimes bombing and sometimes knocking it dead. (Ibid) From the 1920's through the late 1960's the Catskill Mountains in Sullivan, Orange and Ulster Counties in upstate New York were the sites of many summer resorts frequented by Families from New York City and the surrounding region. It was in these—mostly now defunct—summer resorts that a specific form of comedy strengthened and grew. The impact of the comedians performing at these resorts during this time has resonated throughout the decades pervading more than the contemporary comedic landscape but extending and breaking through the boundaries of the realm of fine art. It was these "Borscht Belt" comedians such as Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Phyllis Diller, Rodney Dangerfield, Sid Caesar and Don Rickles (to name just a few) with their rapid-fire often self deprecating humor that set the pace for future generations of comedians. Phrases such as "Take my Wife Please", "I get no respect", "Now Cut that out!", along others helped define an era of Comedy that to this day remains unrivaled. Many of the Jokes that Prince has looked to were told by or inspired by these comedians. When interviewed by Glenn O'Brien, Phyllis Diller remarked about Comedians who tell "Jokes" as they were told in the heyday of the Borscht Belt : I tell Jokes. But they are one-liners. Like: set-up payoff. Set-up payoff. Something that I invented—a manner of delivery—got me into the Guiness Book of World Records. I learned to use the set-up payoff thing in a different way. You know like: 'She's so fat that when she wears a white dress, we show movies on her.'" … The Jokes don't change—[the] people die… you just change the name N. Spector, Richard Prince, New York, 2007, p. 273 The statement in itself has the ring of a Prince painting. The Joke in the present lot Chatterbox Hotel, 1990, has countless incarnations however the present incarnation that Prince has chosen has a certain resonance that stays with the viewer long after they have stopped viewing the work. Outside of the obvious level of humor associated with the joke itself. Prince has succeeded in transcending the comedic aspect of the work creating something entirely new and different. …With his Monochrome Jokes Prince achieved the anti-masterpiece… If anything Prince's Monochrome Jokes represent a skillfully calculated inversion of the artist's essential value system. The seeming equivalency of the works is part of a deliberate conceptual strategy , one that emulates, in the most Warholian fashion, how mass culture operates. Spector, p. 39