The Spiritual American

04Dec10

Francis Bacon said it made sense to him that Americans like abstract art because we are so abstract         ourselves. This book, Richard Prince Untitled (couple) by Michael Newman essentially seeks to unravel the nature of that abstraction through an exploration of a single Richard Prince rephotograph, Untitled (couple).

Can a writer get to the bottom of our Capitalist-Consumption-Dream-Identity mystery in 150 pages? Not likely, but kudos to Richard Prince for seeking to pose the question of our heart and soul to us endlessly in various iconic forms. And cheers to Michael Newman who, in the process of his analysis, hashes out issues of (hold onto your hat!) appropriation, reproduction, consumption, feminism, allegory, facist aesthetics, minimalism, representation, the readymade, icons, symbolism, faith, the uncanny and (wait for it…) vampires, among others (!) This is the kind of book (The Afterall Book Series, from MIT Press) that can seriously wrangle with the multifaceted, layered history of contemporary art, in it’s laser-focused dissection of a single artist’s single work. I may not have understood every word of it, but it’s a pretty joyous spiritquest.

-Gina Beavers

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