Stephen Prina’s drawings, prints, and paintings excavate the histories of artworks, especially their lives as images reproduced in catalogues and on posters and postcards. A primary example is his ambitious ongoing series, Exquisite Corpse: The Complete Paintings of Manet, a group of drawings and lithographs that the artist began in 1988. Using an obsolete catalogue raisonné of the work of Édouard Manet as his guide, Prina has been systematically making his way through the artist’s entire body of work, remaking each painting to scale. The dimensions of this work are based on Manet’s Basket of Fruit, ca. 1864, a small still life in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Instead of reproducing the French master’s subject matter, Prina recreates each painting as a reductively abstract ink wash drawing. In refashioning it as a monochrome, Prina removes the artist’s “work,” leaving only secondary information such as the size, title, and location to represent Manet’s painting. A lithograph featuring scale thumbnails of all 556 works in the catalogue accompanies each Manet “remake,” allowing viewers to locate the work’s place in Prina’s series and in Manet’s career.
Label from Looking at Tomorrow: Light and Language from The Panza Collection, 1967–1990, October 24, 2015–February 7, 2016