"Untitled (Cowboy)," 2012 by Richard Prince. (Robert McKeever / Gagosian…)
Depending on your degree of sympathy for his enterprise, Richard Prince is either a savvy mirror, reflecting select tropes of American popular culture, or a ruthless poacher, hunting on visual terrain already claimed by others.
One thing his new work at Gagosian makes clear is that he has no more qualms about quoting and requoting himself than he does rehashing the work of others.
In sync with the Pictures Generation that emerged in the '70s, Prince started rephotographing ads, including those starring the ruggedly individualistic Marlboro Man. About 10 years ago, he started scanning the covers of pulp novels featuring nurses, painting over and into the inkjet enlargements.
The images in the 33 "Cowboy" paintings here (dating from 2012-13) derive from old paperback book covers that Prince has scanned, enlarged and painted onto using the saturate colors of dusk and dawn and brushwork that simulates vigor.
Onto a variety of cliché cowboy images (standing ready with rifle; astride his trusty steed, pistol drawn; making a dramatic entrance through swinging saloon doors), Prince overlays clichés of expressionist painting's physicality and intensity. Macho mythos merges with macho mythos. Reproduction blends with re-creation. The multiple is cosmetically enhanced by the mark of the hand and reborn as a pseudo-original. Warhol lives. Prince persists.
He pushes lukewarm buttons having to do with authorship, authenticity and appropriation, but the button he pushes most is repeat.
Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9400, through April 6. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.gagosian.com