This series of three staple-bound paperback books constitutes Richard Prince’s first and rarest artist’s book.  He would go on to make over fifty others. While each of these three books is dated 1980 they actually appeared at different times: War Pictures was the first in February, Menthol Pictures came out in June, and Menthol Wars appeared in October.

These books are very much a part of Prince’s early appropriation and reuse of advertising photographs to explore the distinction, or lack thereof, between one’s actual self and the commercial ideal of the self. The text of all three books is similar but not identical, with the last one, made to accompany a window installation at Printed Matter, the longest and the only one to have pagination and a table of contents. Only the last book has been reprinted, in 2009.

The three cover photographs, like the text, are similar but not identical. The photos made another appearance in Prince’s work as an untitled triptych of ektacolor prints, in 1980, each print twenty by twenty-four inches.

 

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