Tag Archives: pictures generation

Postmodernism 2: The Pictures Generation

(Crimp, D (1977) Pictures. New York: Artists space. (full exhibition catalogue above)

“The work of the five emerging artists in this exhibition and that of many other young artists as well seem to be largely free of references to the convention of modernist art, and instead to turn to those of other art forms more directly concerned with representation – film and photography, most particularly – and even to the most debased of our cultural conventions – television and picture newspapers for example.” (Crimp, D. Pictures, 1977)

Douglas Crimp was one of the first writers to recognise that some artists were beginning to stray outside of a purely medium specific method of working and that this was a definite break and alternative to modernism. In 1977 Crimp curated the Pictures exhibition  at the Artists Space in New York featuring emerging artists Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, and Philip Smith who Crimp had recognised were engaged with this postmodern thinking.

For many of the “Pictures” artists a central tenet was that it is up to the viewer to complete the images by bringing their own experiences and ideas to a work. In some ways, it was an idea derived from the writings of French philosopher Roland Barthes, who theorized that individual authorship was dead, and that society’s ideas gave things their meaning. (Greenberger, A. 2014)


Richard Prince Untitled (Cowboy) 

“Richard Prince’s untitled (Cowboy) is a high point of the artist’s ongoing deconstruction of an American archetype as old as the first trailblazers and as timely as then-outgoing president Ronald Reagan. Prince’s picture is a copy (the photograph) of a copy (the advertisement) of a myth (the cowboy). Perpetually disappearing into the sunset, this lone ranger is also a convincing stand-in for the artist himself, endlessly chasing the meaning behind surfaces. Created in the fade-out of a decade devoted to materialism and illusion, Untitled (Cowboy) is, in the largest sense, a meditation on an entire culture’s continuing attraction to spectacle over lived experience.” This analysis can be viewed in full at he Metropolitan Museum of Art website at

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2000.272/  (accessed 02/05/2016)

In addition to Richard Prince added to the original group of artists would also be Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger plus others included when in 2009 Douglas Eklund revisited the Pictures Generation in a new exhibition for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eklund famously excluded the work of one of the original artists Philip Smith attempting the ultimate death of the author. Smith for his part promptly sent a letter of complaint to Art in America magazine (see below)


(accessed 02/05/2016)
For more information on this exhibition see:


(accessed 02/05/2016)

Reference list

Bull, S (2010). Photography. Abingdon: Routledge



Greenberger, A (2014) What was the Pictures Generation? Artspace website 23/09/2014

http://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/art_market/pictures_generation-51922 (accessed 02/05/2016)


(accessed 02/05/2016)

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2009/pictures-generation (accessed 02/05/2016)

Richard Prince Cowboy image can be seen at


(accessed 02/05/2016)