After the cowboy series, Prince began working on his Girlfriends: re-photographed half-nude biker chicks lounging on their boyfriend's hogs. He explored Borscht-belt humor, painting tired jokes with themes of alienation. A series of low relief sculptures followed; hoods of muscle cars, which Prince lacquered and hung as ready-mades. Moving to upstate New York, he began a set of "earnest" photographs that focused on inept, depressing features of the rural landscape, such as basketball goals nailed to trees and planters made from discarded tires. Luc Sante describes Prince's subject matter as "aggressive American popular imagery that has little or no basis in tradition." The only tradition detectable is one of hostility and neurosis that has been packaged as seduction and glamour. The misogynist jokes, the naked biker chicks, the hot rods, and the desolate abandoned promise of a forgotten basketball hoop all signal a mask or distraction that conceal disease, alienation, and even an undertone of violence. As Rosetta Brooks says, "Every time he copies or re-photographs, a kind of death of the original is the ultimate outcome."
For any fan of Richard Prince who can't afford the swank two-volume, slip cased Paintings - Photographs book set that came out last year, Phaidon has release a formidable collection of Prince's work that, will be useful to both newcomers and those who have been following his work for years. CHAS BOWIE