UPPER EAST SIDE — Artist Richard Prince’s “Canal Zone” — the provocative series that led to a hard-fought legal battle over copyright law — is coming to the Upper East Side.
The Madison Avenue location of the Gagosian Gallery will host an exhibit of the series beginning May 8 and running through June 14. Between 12 and 14 works from the series will be on display, however most of the pieces have already been sold.
The "Canal Zone" series is named for the part of Panama where Prince was born and lived for the first five years of his life while his parents worked for the U.S. government there, according to a statement by Prince. The pieces in the series use photography, collage and painting to create a vision of a post-apocalyptic world set in a lush, tropical landscape. Many of them feature black-and-white photographs of nude women with their eyes and mouths painted over and Rastafarians holding electric guitars.
Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery first showed the "Canal Zone" series in 2008. In December of that year, photographer Patrick Cariou filed a lawsuit against Prince and the Gagosian Gallery, according to court records. Prince has used many of Cariou’s original images from his book "Yes, Rasta" without permission in the "Canal Zone" paintings.
“Like most images I work with they weren’t mine,” Prince said in statement about the upcoming show. “I didn’t know anything about Rastas. I didn’t know anything about their culture or how they lived…What I went with was the attraction. I liked their dreads. The way they were dressed . . . Their look and lifestyle gave off a vibe of freedom.”
In April 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Prince, according to court records. Price argued that he had used Cariou’s photographs in a transformative way and that his paintings should therefore be considered fair use. Five of the 30 works were exempted from the decision. Prince and Cariou settled out of court over the works in early 2014.
Prince fans will have a chance to take a second look at the controversial series starting next month.
"These paintings have been under lock-and-key for so long, but have been spoken about because of the court case," said Ken Maxwell of Gagosian Gallery. "This show gives everyone a chance to see them again and take a fresh look."