Photo courtesy of Cultural Counsel.

How The Hell Did Richard Prince Come To Design A Weed Brand?

The brand ties into his new 'High Times' exhibition at Gagosian.

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Jun 10 2019, 5:23pm

Photo courtesy of Cultural Counsel.

Richard Prince was in high school when he first dropped acid. It was the 1960s and he was tripping out while standing on Sunset Strip. “I was a completely clueless teenager,” he said.

Now, the 69-year-old artist has come full circle back to his psychedelic roots. When he isn’t causing an uproar for selling other people’s Instagram photos or making album covers for Sonic Youth, he is building a brand. Case in point: Prince just launched Katz + Dogg, an “elite” cannabis brand selling flower, pens, and papers meant “for friends who like to do their own counterculture thing together.”

It also ties into his “High Times” exhibition at Gagosian in San Francisco, where he’s showing potent new paintings until August 23; they’re acrylic and oil works, some of which look like stick figures made in a kindergarten class. But they suggest something else: Has Prince, the king of banality, finally found happiness? And has he found it through weed?

Katz + Dogg claims that Prince is “the world’s first artist to have his own line of marijuana,” but that depends if you include rappers, TV stars or even Francis Ford Coppola who have their own luxe weed swag, from micro-dosing pens to edible boutique bakeries. What we do know is that it’s the first luxury weed venture with its roots deep in conceptual art history.

When Prince went to Woodstock in the 1960s, he brought a camera with him. He spun around until he was dizzy and stopped randomly to take photos. It was an art world reference to when Robert Rauschenberg first saw Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, some of which were made in 1963. When Rauschenberg first saw the works, he spun around, stopped and pointed to one work and said: “I like that one.”

They somehow lead to Prince’s ballpoint pen drawings, which were a convenient way of making art while in transit (it was around the same time he moved to New York in the early 1970s). These bizarre, child-like drawings are part of his “Dead Head” series, which apparently have nothing to do with the Grateful Dead. “They were probably the first things I did that ever had any soul,” he said.

These drawings are now the basis for the packaging of Katz + Dogg. “We’ve long believed that cannabis should do better,” said Katz. “Wrapping and trappings shouldn’t feel threatening but inclusive, while assuring you of the high caliber of the flower you’re about to enjoy.”

It’s kind of hilarious that Prince is behind the aesthetics of a weed brand, because he’s probably best known for his 1980s “Cowboy Photographs,” where he rearranged Marlboro Cigarettes ads to cut out the product and leave in only the art—the men in wilderness—on the surface.

His “Hippie drawings” are also part of the new packaging for Katz + Dogg, which is available at dispensaries in San Francisco, San Jose and Modesto, Californi and at Gagosian New York’s bookstore. These drawings were made in 1998, after Prince left New York, a kind of resurrection of the Dead Head series, where he published in a catalogue. The cover of the catalogue has the artist in 1968, with long hair and a beard.

“I kind of looked like a hippie, but I wasn’t a hippie,” he said. “The portrait was about looking, not being.” In 2017, he made print-out reproductions of his 1998 Hippie Drawings. “And it was fun,” said Prince.

It’s not only for smokers, there’s also a streetwear collab that ties into this. Designed by Darren Romanelli, also known as DRx and Dr. Romanelli, just launched a new series of upcycled, reversible kimonos featuring Prince’s artwork superimposed onto them inside and out, from Dead Heads to his Hippie Drawings, which are available at the Forty Five Ten boutique in Aspen. There’s also a series of t-shirts, too, some where the drawings are overlaid on top of Hard Rock Café shirts, or vintage 1980s cat sweaters.

It’s all very unruly and boisterous, but that will hopefully fuel others to channel their own messy creativity, perhaps. “Just as kids have a way of pulling you in, even when they’re deep in their own creative thing, cannabis can aid in carving out your own headspace,” said Katz. “But it’s also inherently social, bringing all of us freaks together.”

Katz + Dogg is available at dispensaries in San Francisco, San Jose and Modesto, California, but it’s also available at Gagosian New York’s bookstore, too.

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