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  • The Unhappily Dead by Rene Ricard

The Unhappily Dead by Rene Ricard

Petersburg Press

Colour Lithograph


Edition Size: 28

Sheet Size: 31 x 23.5 unfolded to 31 x 47 inches


Condition: Pristine

Details — Click to read

Paper 31 in. x 47 in. / 79 cm. x 120 cm. folded to 31 in. x 23.5 in. x 79 cm. x 60 cm. Lithograph and etching on Arches paper. Edition 28: this impression 28/28. Signed by the artist in red pencil lower right; numbered 28/28 in black crayon lower left.

Ricard wrote the work’s title, “The Unhappily Dead”, at the top of the composition, and below it, a poem in cursive reading: “Suddenly cabs don’t stop for you / Your job gets lost you end up living off your friends / If they see you. You’re always hungry and keep losing weight. You / Move into a room in a huge / Bldg in Chelsea. It takes / An Eternity to realize you are in Hell / RR”.

The tranquil colors of the gradient are at odds with the somber tone of the poem, and the arc of the black marks around the text suggests a gravestone. The black layer is printed to reveal the shape of the stone on which Ricard would have drawn this composition. The heavy, flat limestone slabs traditionally used to print lithographs further recall the shape and weight of a gravestone — a tongue-in-cheek reference typical of Ricard’s work. The lithography stone as medium and as visual motif is a recurrent theme in his prints. Here, the artist’s black shading reveals the natural chipping on the side of the stone. Scratches and scribbling form a rich texture that enhances the emotional intensity of Ricard’s frenzied cursive.


The Artist

Rene Ricard

In the 1980s, he wrote a series of influential essays for Artforum magazine. Having achieved stature in the art world by successfully launching the career of painter Julian Schnabel, Ricard helped bring Jean-Michel Basquiat to fame. In December 1981 he published the first major article on Basquiat, entitled “The Radiant Child,” in Artforum. Ricard also contributed art essays to numerous gallery and exhibition catalogs. Ricard was immortalized by Basquiat in the drawing entitled Rene Ricard / Axe, representing the tension that existed between the two. Andy Warhol called him “the George Sanders of the Lower East Side, the Rex Reed of the art world.”

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