Begun in 2004 at the juncture of the Nurse and De Kooning paintings and evolving through the Canal Zone and After Dark series, the Tiffany paintings reflect Prince’s continuing attentiveness to the recurring patterns and suggestive potential of advertising, honed by years of perusing newspapers and magazines. These almost abstract, monochrome paintings treat the plain yet distinctive ads that New York’s most famous jewelry brand has run daily for many years in the upper right hand corner of the same page of The New York Times, while echoing associations with another classic, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, whose object of desire Holly Golightly lures admirers only to elude them later.
Capote considered his Tiffany to be the strategic marker of the second phase of his career, in which he refined his prose into a clearer and more subdued form before moving on to his crowning achievement, the visceral non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood. Prince’s Tiffany paintings are terse, tenuous combines of material reference and literary allusion comprising, in addition to the aforementioned Tiffany ads, scanned news events, obituaries, and the occasional autobiographical note. This field of reference is then painted over in a manner evocative of post-war Abstract Expressionism, from its sedimentary layers and floating blocks of color to the swipes and splatters of its more animated moments. In some cases, words and phrases snatched from the ad copy – “will be girls,” “undecided, and “Picasso”— are echoed suggestively in the titles of paintings; in others, such as Poetry, headlines charged with dread and import loom through obfuscating veils of paint.