Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic. 69.9 × 91.4 cm. Private collection. Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Regrets. 2013. Charcoal, watercolor, and pastel on paper. 31 1/2 × 46 7/8″ (80 × 119.1 cm). © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Regrets. 2013. Oil on canvas. 170.2 × 243.8 cm. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

… and now, from Jasper Johns, Jasper Johns Regrets

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
212-708-9400
New York
The Paul J. Sachs Drawings Galleries,
third floor
Jasper Johns: Regrets
March 15, 2014-September 01, 2014

The Museum of Modern Art announces Jasper Johns: Regrets, an exhibition of new work by Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930). Having emerged as a leading voice in American art in the late-1950s with paintings of iconic motifs such as flags, targets, and numbers, Johns has since developed a body of work of extraordinary narrative complexity and technical virtuosity. This exhibition premieres the artist’s most recent body of work, developed over the last year and a half, and includes approximately 30 objects: two paintings, as well as drawings and prints. Jasper Johns: Regrets is organized by Christophe Cherix, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints, and Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Ingrid Langston, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA.

 

This series introduces a new addition to Johns’s personal iconography: the image of the young artist Lucian Freud perched on a bed, one arm raised to obscure his face in an introspective gesture. The photograph, part of a series taken around 1964 by the British photographer John Deakin, was commissioned and used by Francis Bacon as source material for his own paintings. Johns incorporated into his work not only the photograph of Freud (most often doubled by its mirrored image), but also the physical qualities of the original black-and-white print, which Bacon had extensively torn and creased in the course of his studio practice. A loss on the original photograph, for example, plays a prominent role in the composition throughout the series, creating a dominant dark form in the center foreground. Each of the two paintings is titled Regrets. This title is developed from a stamp that Johns had produced about five years ago, in order to swiftly decline the stream of requests and invitations that he frequently receives. Enlarged as a screen print, the words on the stamp appear in the top right corner of the two paintings, serving both as the artist’s signature and as the works’ titles.

The Regrets series takes the image of Freud through a succession of cross-medium permutations, including small pencil sketches, a set of four ink-on-plastic drawings, and two prints, each presented with a variety of preliminary states. A large-scale watercolor, also titled Regrets, obscures the image nearly into abstraction, exploring the theme in yet another way. This series lays bare the importance of process and experimentation, the cycle of dead ends and fresh starts, and the incessant interplay of materials, meaning, and representation so characteristic of Johns’s career over the last 60 years.

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Study for Regrets. 2012. Acrylic, photocopy collage, colored pencil, ink and watercolor on paper. 28.9 × 45.1 cm. Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Study for Regrets. 2012. Acrylic, photocopy collage, colored pencil, ink and watercolor on paper. 28.9 × 45.1 cm. Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Untitled. 2013. Watercolor on paper. 56.5 × 78.7 cm. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

Jasper Johns, Shrinky Dink 4, 2011. Intaglio, 28 3/4 x 31 3/4", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. Courtesy ULAE © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, a Career Testing Boundaries in Contemporary Printmaking

asper Johns, Fragment – According to What (Leg and Chair), 1971. Lithograph, 35 x 30", Published by Gemini G.E.L., National Gallery of Art © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Figure 1, 1969. Lithograph, 37 3⁄4 x 31", Published by Gemini G.E.L., John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Target, 1960. Lithograph, 22 1⁄2 x 17 1⁄2". Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Untitled, 2011. Intaglio, 43 1/2 x 33 5/8", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. Private collection © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Flags II, 1970. Lithograph, 34 x 25", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street Northwest
202-387-2151
Washington, D.C.
Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme
June 2-September 9, 2012

One of the most celebrated artists of the modern era, Jasper Johns (b. 1930) transformed printmaking. For over 50 years, he has tested its boundaries, reinventing targets, American flags, and images from art history in endless variation. The first exhibition of his work at The Phillips Collection features prints from each decade, with groundbreaking examples of lithography, intaglio, silkscreen, and lead relief.

The exhibition spans Johns’s printmaking career, beginning with his first experiments and culminating in 2011. In 1960, Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) founding director Tatyana Grosman encouraged Johns to work on lithographic stones, and he completed five prints and began his celebrated 0-9 series. Inspired,

Johns saw printmaking as a way to transform ideas he had developed in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Johns mines art history, including his own work, to repeat and vary motifs. Fragments – According to What (1971) excavates six details from his 1964 painting, According to What. The exhibition brings together all six prints from this important series. In 1976, Johns partnered with Samuel Beckett to create Foirades/Fizzles on view in the exhibition. The book includes 33 etchings, which revisit an earlier work by Johns and five text fragments by Beckett.

“Jasper Johns’s persistent experimentation not only transformed printmaking but set the standard for contemporary art,” says Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski. “A champion of visionary American artists since 1921, the Phillips is proud to present over five decades of Johns’s graphic achievements, including our own The Critic Sees (1967). We are deeply grateful to the John and Maxine Belger Foundation whose collaboration makes a project on this scale possible.”

Opening with Target (1960), the exhibition unfolds to reveal the artist’s evolving interests. At the end of the 1960s, he experiments with etching in 1st Etchings Portfolio (1968). In the 1970s, an abstract aesthetic emerges with a crosshatch motif in works like Corpse and Mirror (1976). In the 1980s, autobiographical elements enter Johns’s work such as a tracing of the artist’s shadow in The Seasons (1987). In the 1990s, images from art history appear in After Holbein (1993-94) and Green Angel (1991). Johns’s latest prints, Fragments of a Letter (2010) and Shrinky Dinks 1-4 (2011), layer text, cubist forms, and hand gestures from American Sign Language.

Johns’s collaborations with master printers, including those at ULAE in New York and Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, are essential to his work. They empowered him to test methods unprecedented in the history of the medium. He said: “It’s the printmaking techniques that interest me … the technical innovation possible.” Six ingenious lead reliefs realized at Gemini G.E.L. from 1969 to 1970 are featured in the exhibition, as are several important collaborations with ULAE including Decoy (1971), considered Johns’s first offset print, Voice 2 (1982), as well as the artist’s latest prints.

Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme is organized by The Phillips Collection in collaboration with the John and Maxine Belger Foundation. Exhibition curator is Phillips Assistant Curator Renée Maurer.

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, Johns is a central figure in modern and contemporary art. His work is represented in nearly every major museum collection and has been the subject of one-person exhibitions throughout the world. Born in Georgia in 1930 and raised in South Carolina, Johns grew up wanting to be an artist. He moved to New York City in his 20s and emerged as a force in the American art scene in 1958 with a solo show at Leo Castelli Gallery from which the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces. For over 50 years he has challenged the possibilities of printmaking, painting, and sculpture, laying groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists. He represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale in 1988 and was awarded the Grand Prix. He currently lives and works in Sharon, Conn., and on the island of Saint Martin.

Jasper Johns, The Seasons (Summer), 1987. Intaglio, 26 x 19", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Green Angel, 1991. Intaglio, 31 x 22 1⁄2", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Savarin, 1977. Lithograph, 45 x 35", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Bread, 1969. Embossing with object, 23 x 17", Published by Gemini G.E.L. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Decoy, 1971. Lithograph with die cut, 41 x 29", Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Untitled (Black with Primaries), 1991. Intaglio, 42 x 78". Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Fragment of a Letter, 2010. Two Intaglios, 44 7/8 x 30 1⁄2" each. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. Courtesy ULAE © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Target with Four Faces, detail, 1955, Encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas surmounted by four tinted-plaster faces in wood box with hinged front, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Scull, 1958, Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.

Jasper Johns, Iconic Paintings Born of Radical Change and Destruction

Jasper Johns (born 1930), White Target, 1957, Encaustic on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase, 71.211, Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photograph © 1998: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Photo by Robert E. Mates.

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Device Circle, 1959, Encaustic and collage on canvas with object, Andrew and Denise Saul, Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photograph Becket Logan.

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Periscope (Hart Crane), 1963, Oil on canvas, Collection of the artist, Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Courtesy National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

 

National Gallery of Art
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
202-737-4215
Washington
Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965
January 28-April 29, 2007

The work of Jasper Johns (b. 1930) represents a breakthrough in art at midcentury, a period of radical change in American art. Themes developed in the first decade of his career are examined as a group for the first time in an exhibition of 83 works.

Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965 presents some of his most iconic paintings, drawings, and prints from public and private collections, including the artist's own. Departing from the format of the survey or retrospective, the show traces the unfolding relationship of four specific motifs in Johns' works — the target, the "device," the stenciled naming of colors, and the imprint of the body — revealing the works' significance to the following generation of artists.

In 1954, in an attempt to reinvent himself, Johns destroyed all the work he had made up to that point. He wanted to start over as an artist and sought a new direction away from abstract expressionism. In pairs and sequences of paintings and works on paper, Johns reduced art-making to a series of quasi-mechanical procedures.

These techniques and their significance were embodied by four related motifs: the target, the "device," the stenciled naming of colors, and the imprint of the body, which appeared alone or together in various combinations and excluded almost all other images, most notably the flag and the number.

Of the four earliest icons (targets, flags, numbers, and maps) that occupy his work, the target is Johns' most abstract image. Representing something anonymous and universal, the familiar target appears in Johns' work until 1961. His first two paintings of the target image, Target with Plaster Casts (1955) and Target with Four Faces (1955), incorporate a row on top of small cubicle-like boxes with hinged drop doors, each containing a plaster cast of a body part.

The target as a subject is replaced by the mechanical "device" — a wooden, compass-like instrument attached to the canvas by a pivot on one end and manipulated to scrape through the paint surface in circles and arcs. The first of these works, Device Circle (1959), is affixed with the kind of compass arm that Johns used to create his target images. From Device Circle, Johns produced two simultaneous sequences of work: those that show the artist changing his manner of applying paint (in long strokes of the brush) and introduce the stenciled color names, and those that use or depict the device.

Johns began naming colors with stenciled lettering in the paintings False Start (1959) and Jubilee (1960). In these works, he labeled and mislabeled colors using red, yellow, blue, and orange paint in the former, and black, white, and gray paint in the latter.

Combining themes of sensuality and mortality, Johns began using his own body as an instrument and image. In works such as Periscope (Hart Crane) (1963), he incorporated the stenciled words RED YELLOW BLUE and a device image that is attached to an imprint of his palm. In this way, the artist compared the device to his outstretched arm. In the Skin drawings (1962),

Johns covered his head and hands with baby oil and left an impression of these body parts on mechanical drafting paper. The images were revealed when he rubbed them with strokes of charcoal. In Arrive / Depart (1963-1964), the composition of red, yellow, blue, and orange paint incorporates handprints and the imprint of a skull.

Throughout second half of the exhibition, various works represent a complex of the motifs. New themes emerge: Periscope (Hart Crane) is presumed to reference Crane's suicide by drowning through the image of the extended arm. Together with this painting, works such as Passage(1962) and Land's End (1963), which also draw their titles from Crane's poems, form a sequence of works dedicated to Crane.

Others, such as the uncommonly large paintings Diver (1962) and According to What (1964), are compilations of motifs and techniques. By contrast, one large drawing, also titled Diver (1962-1963), is an expansive but diagrammatic rendering of the body as device. The monochromatic painting Voice (1964-1967) is also startlingly spare. Here the device moves through a field of gray paint, leaving behind a single curving band that brings us back to the image of the target, where we began.

Over the past 50 years, Johns has created a rich body having profound influence on art in the U.S. and Europe. Johns, born 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, was raised in South Carolina. After attending the University of South Carolina for three semesters, he moved to New York City at the age of nineteen and briefly attended a commercial art school. After service in the army, including a period in Japan, he returned to New York in 1953, where he flourished as an artist.

Along with his contemporary Robert Rauschenberg, Johns is widely acknowledged as one of the most important American painters of the postwar era and one of the greatest living American painters. He is also regarded as one of the greatest graphic artists of the 20th century, creating important bodies of drawings as well as prints in a variety of media.

In 1950s New York, Johns met John Cage and Merce Cunningham, with whom he collaborated, producing sets and props for performances. Johns' work on canvas and paper from that period, often limited to a single motif against a monochromatic field, has since attained enormous historical stature. Subsequently, his work has grown increasingly complex, even quasi-autobiographical. Developments such as abstract painting and drawing in a crosshatch manner further distinguish Johns' contribution to the history of art since midcentury.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Johns was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988, and that same year he was awarded the Golden Lion, the grand prize at the Venice Biennale. Johns resides in New York City, Connecticut, and the French West Indies.

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Untitled, (1964-1965), © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Jasper Johns, Untitled. 2001, Acrylic over aquatint and etching, Composition: 18-3/16 x 26-13/16", The Museum of Modern Art. Anonymous fractional and promised gift, Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

A Sampler of 2001 Jasper Johns Prints from the MoMA Collection

Jasper Johns. Untitled, 2001. Acrylic over aquatint and etching. Composition: 46 x 68 cm, The Museum of Modern Art. Anonymous fractional and promised gift. Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns. Untitled, 2001. Acrylic over aquatint and etching. Composition: 22-5/8 x 27-3/8", The Museum of Modern Art. Anonymous fractional and promised gift. Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Green Angel, 1991, Etching and aquatint, Plate: 25-11/16 x 18-7/16", Publisher and printer: Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York. Edition: 46. The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Emily Fisher Landau. Art © Jasper Johns and U.L.A.E. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
212-708-9400
New York
The Paul J. Sachs Prints and Illustrated Books Galleries, second floor
Focus: Jasper Johns
December 5, 2008-February 16, 2009

Focus: Jasper Johns celebrates MoMA’s acquisition of a series of 13 untitled compositions from 2001 by Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930) exhibiting 85 prints, drawings, and paintings from the Museum’s collection of his works. On view for the first time at MoMA, Johns’s Untitled series of prints — referencing his “Catenary” theme, named for the curve formed by a cord hanging between two fixed points — show the artist cutting, pasting, painting, and drawing to make works linked thematically but differing widely in expressive content. This series, along with other works selected for this exhibition, comprise a revealing display of the artist’s creative process and demonstrate Johns’s longstanding practice of re-investigating a repertoire of images, including flags, numerals, targets, and studies of the four seasons. The exhibition is organized by Deborah Wye, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Chief Curator for Prints and Illustrated Books, Museum of Modern Art.

Ms. Wye says: “This exhibition, meant to highlight and contextualize a new acquisition, provides the opportunity to bring together works from across MoMA’s collection. In addition to the selection of paintings and drawings, Johns’s prints provide a focus that demonstrates his investigatory process especially well.”

“Just the process of printmaking allows you to do things that make your mind work in a different way,” Johns has said.

Numerals have been the most prevalent motif in Johns’s work. Among the works on view are two variations of a portfolio entitled 0-9 (1963): one is printed in gray ink on tan paper, the other in a range of colors on white paper. All the prints were made from one lithographic stone, with Johns effacing and reworking the surface of the stone after drawing each numeral.

Decoy (1971) contains imagery from several of his earlier works. For this print, Johns had access for the first time to an offset printing press, which facilitates the use of multiple plates, photographic transfers, and layering. After finishing Decoy, he used the leftover, rejected prints to create Decoy II (1971-73).

With Flags (1968), Johns revisited his composition and created something almost entirely new from it. On view are a series of trial proofs that demonstrate how the artist later developed a new version entitled, Flags II (1970).

The print Savarin (1977) is based on Johns’s life-size bronze sculpture of a paintbrush-filled Savarin coffee can. The composition was designed first as a poster for a retrospective exhibition of his work. Johns went on to experiment extensively with this imagery. This exhibition also includes a series of six lithographs that are variations on the theme.

In the late 1980s, Johns’s works known as The Seasons were his most autobiographical to date. Their imagery combines fragmented references to the artist’s work and to his life. Incorporating personal elements such as a tracing of his own shadow was, at the time, a departure for him. A painting, drawing, and several prints on this theme are on view.

Johns has sometimes looked to other artists for themes and patterns to serve as compositional elements in his own work. While many references are known — from the work of the modern master Pablo Picasso to that of the Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald — Green Angel (1991) presents a shape traced from a source the artist has not identified. To date, this motif has appeared in over 40 paintings, drawings, and prints.

Jasper Johns. Flags, 1968, Lithograph, Composition: 34-5/8 x 25-7/8", Publisher and printer: Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, Edition: 43. The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the Celeste and Armand Bartos Foundation. Art © Jasper Johns and U.L.A.E. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns, Untitled, 2001, Collage over aquatint and etching, Composition, 22-7/16 x 28-5/8", The Museum of Modern Art. Anonymous fractional and promised gift. Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Light Bulb, 1976, detail, Lithograph, working proof with chalk additions, Collection of the artist, Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Jasper Johns: The Prints Extend the Thematic Exploration of his Painting

Jasper Johns (born 1930), 1st Etchings, 2nd State: Flashlight, 1967/1969, Etching and aquatint on Auvergne paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Woodward Foundation, Washington, D.C., Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Jasper Johns, Decoy, detail, 1971, (no. 55).

 

National Gallery
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
202-737-4215
Washington
States and Variations: Prints by Jasper Johns
March 11-October 28, 2007

A 1969 portfolio of twelve prints, 1st Etchings, 2nd State, by Jasper Johns (b. 1930) is the focus of States and Variations: Prints by Jasper Johns. The exhibition, includeing 63 works from 1960 — the year Johns first undertook printmaking — through 1982, highlights Johns' printmaking process. The exhibition complements Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965.

States and Variations presents the artist's reexamination of six motifs depicted in the portfolio — Ale Cans, Paint Brushes, Flag, Light Bulb, Flashlight, and 0 through 9 (a configuration of superimposed numerals). These "found" objects that Johns referred to as "things the mind already knows" are represented in lithography, etching, screenprint, monotype, and lead relief, which together reveal how changes in size, color, composition, and process alter the visual impact of each of the six motifs. The works are from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, with the addition of several important loans from the artist.

A master in many media, Johns is a printmaker of immense curiosity and skill. By the time he completed 1st Etchings, 2nd State in 1969 he had established his method of reexamining a body of motifs — in paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints—a practice that is reflected throughout the exhibition. The first section of States and Variations includes early images of four of the portfolio motifs; the second section presents the entire 1st Etchings, 2nd State portfolio; and the third section displays works postdating the portfolio that incorporate its imagery.

On display in all three sections, further highlighting the role of theme and variation in Johns' art, are trial proofs for many of the editions, several enhanced with Johns' extensive drawn additions. Documenting changes he made before achieving the final images, these proofs provide nuanced insight into Johns' artistic process and function as individual works of art.

Curator is Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns spent much of his childhood in South Carolina. He briefly attended the University of South Carolina but in 1949 moved to New York City, where he took classes at a commercial art school. Drafted into the Army, he was stationed in Japan. He had returned to New York by 1952. He initially supported himself by working in a bookstore and designing window displays with Robert Rauschenberg for prestigious Fifth Avenue stores such as Tiffany and Bonwit Teller.

Johns emerged as a notable artist in the 1950s in the wake of the intensely personal, gestural painting of the abstract expressionists. Early in his career he was credited with returning recognizable objects to the visual arts by presenting them in a cool, seemingly detached, and often enigmatic manner.

Johns has almost always selected the raw material of his art from preexisting images, or what he has called "things the mind already knows." Early in his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, he chose widely familiar "things," such as numerals or shapes derived from commercial stencils, targets, American flags, and maps of the United States. His first solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1958 included paintings with these motifs and was an instant success. In the early 1980s Johns began using a number of images known more to his mind than the public's: personal possessions like ceramic pots, works of art, and pictures clipped from newspapers.

Johns' painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking are all closely related. He is interested in the play between an image and the medium, and frequently explores the same subjects using different techniques. Johns' methods of juxtaposing forms, his choice of materials, and his handling of color make his images function as signs that offer a range of possible meanings for each work.

Jasper Johns is widely celebrated as one of the most influential American artists of the postwar era. His work combines intellectual challenge with highly sensual handling of materials. Johns is also regarded as one of the greatest graphic artists of this century, and his lithographs, screenprints, and etchings have been exhibited widely.

 

Jasper Johns (born 1930), Flags I, 1973, Screenprint on J.B. Green paper, National Gallery of Art,, Washington, Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection,, 1994.82.8, Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, ©2008 National, Gallery of Art,, Washington, DC.

 

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Jubilee, 1959, Oil and collage on canvas, 60 x 44", Private collection, © Jasper Johns, / Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photograph Jamie M. Stukenberg / Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), The Critic Sees, 1961, Sculp-metal over plaster with glass, 3-1/8 x 6-1/2 x 2-1/4", Collection of Steven A. Cohen, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photo: Jamie M. Stukenberg/Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.

The Consistency of the Persistent Monochromes of Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930) Target, 1958, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Saul, © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photo: Jamie M. Stukenberg / Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Periscope (Hart Crane), 1963, Oil on canvas, 67 x 48", Collection of the artist, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photograph Jamie M. Stukenberg / Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Fool's House, 1962, Oil on canvas with objects, 72 x 36", Collection of Jean-Christophe Castelli, on loan to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photograph Jamie M. Stukenberg / Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.

 

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York
212-535-7710

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor
Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor
Jasper Johns: Gray
February 5-May 4, 2008

Jasper Johns: Gray examines the use of the color gray in the work of American artist Jasper Johns. From the mid-1950s to the present, gray has been a consistent thread in Johns’s practice and an important means for the artist to evoke different moods and to explore a range of formal ideas. This major exhibition offers a new lens through which to see the work of this pivotal American artist, bringing together more than 120 paintings, reliefs, drawings, prints, and sculptures. Jasper Johns: Gray features masterworks of Johns’s career — such as Canvas, Gray Target, Jubilee, 0 through 9, No, Diver, and The Dutch Wives — as well as works from the artist’s recent Catenary series and new works never before exhibited.

The exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, in cooperation with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

One of the most important American painters and printmakers of the 20th century, Jasper Johns (b. 1930) emerged in the 1950s as a leading artist of the generation that followed “The New York School” of Abstract Expressionists. Johns eschewed the highly subjective themes and expressive techniques of artists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock and turned to a more conceptual approach to painting. Most widely known for his paintings of flags, targets, numbers, alphabets, and maps, Johns was a progenitor of Pop Art, incorporating elements of popular culture and everyday objects directly into his work. In addition, Johns’s use of language, his monochrome canvases, and his conception of the painting as a material object served as a catalyst for Minimal and Conceptual Art.

Jasper Johns: Gray traces the progression of this color throughout the work highlighting its appearance in diverse media, such as encaustic, oil paint, Sculp-metal, aluminum, silver, lead, graphite, charcoal, and ink. As early as 1955, Johns was working in gray and finding infinite variety within a narrow color spectrum. With gray, Johns’s sensuous, layered surfaces emphasize the physical properties of the work. When asked if gray draws attention away from figuration, for example, Johns replied, “The clues a range of colors gives are lost, of course. Gray puts perception on a more tactile level, perhaps.” He continues, “…through the use of gray, the object nature of the materials would come forward, their physical existence isolated or intensified.”

The exhibition also focuses on the intellectual and emotional significance of gray in Johns’s work, and how it has varied over the past five decades. The neutrality of gray distances his work from that of the Abstract Expressionists, whose paintings were often characterized by black and white compositions or bold colors. In the late 1950s, Johns also used gray to suggest skepticism or ambiguity. “It is the gray zone between two extremes that I’m interested in,” Johns has said. “…You can have a certain view of a thing at one time and a different view of it at another.” In later work, Johns’s use of gray may evoke an emotional coolness or suggest obfuscation, veiling, or concealment.

Jasper Johns: Gray begins with the pairing of the colorful painting False Start (1959) — in which bursts of red, yellow, blue, and orange are surrounded by stenciled words naming colors — and Jubilee (1959), its pendant in black, white, and gray. With these tactics and with his highly stylized brushstrokes, Johns makes the viewer aware of the arbitrariness of color and “expressive” painting.

The next section focuses on Johns’s early and groundbreaking practice of embedding objects in the paintings themselves, disrupting the illusionistic role of historical painting technique. Highlights include Canvas (1956), Tennyson (1958), and Coat Hanger (1959).

The exhibition continues with sections that demonstrate Johns’s serial practice in gray, objects in which the artist repeatedly reworks sets of favorite found images: flags, targets, numbers, alphabets, and maps. In addition to presenting several well-known paintings on these subjects, these sections will feature large-scale works on paper and a significant body of prints that will highlight the importance of other media in the artist’s oeuvre. Trial prints will be included to show the artist’s working process through these motifs.

In 1961, there was a noticeable change in mood in Johns’s work, and the exhibition will present in a number of significant paintings from this year — including No, Liar, and In Memory of My Feelings — Frank O’Hara — in which gray conveys an emotional tone of bleakness, froideur, or negativity. The exhibition continues with his Device paintings, such as Fool's House (1962), in which tools of the artist’s studio, such as wooden stretcher bars, rulers, or brooms, are agents for art-making and remain attached to the surface of the canvases.

The exhibition proceeds with Johns’s abstract Crosshatch paintings of the 1970s and early 1980s. Although the series is generally known for its bright coloration, among Crosshatches are a important works in gray: The Dutch Wives (1975), an elegant work in encaustic and collage; Céline (1978), a nuanced oil; and Between the Clock and the Bed (1982-83), an encaustic triptych that is titled after a 1940 work by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Next, the exhibition follows the artist’s return to figuration in the 1980s. In works such as Racing Thoughts (1984) and Winter (1986), Johns incorporates art-historical and autobiographical motifs in his paintings and, in drawings, experiments with materials such as ink on plastic. The last section of the exhibition focuses on Johns’s Catenary series, which began in the 1990s, and more recent work. The name of the Catenary series refers to the artist’s use of the curve made by a cord hanging from two points — as in Bridge (1997). The exhibition concludes with two recent gray paintings, Beckett (2005) and Within (1983 and 2005), and a newly released lithograph, Within (2007), none of which have been exhibited before.

Jasper Johns: Gray is curated by James Rondeau, Frances and Thomas Dittmer Chair, Department of Contemporary Art, Douglas Druick, Searle Chair of the Department of Medieval to Modern European Painting and Sculpture and the Prince Trust Chair of the Department of Prints and Drawings, both of The Art Institute of Chicago, and Nan Rosenthal, Senior Consultant in the Met’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art. Nan Rosenthal organized the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring an interview with the artist by Nan Rosenthal and essays by James Rondeau; Douglas Druick; Mark Pascale, Associate Curator, Department of Prints and Drawings, The Art Institute of Chicago; Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, University of Texas, Austin; Barbara Rose, independent scholar; and Kristin Lister, Conservator of Painting, and Kelly Keegan, Assistant Conservator of Paintings, both at The Art Institute of Chicago. The catalogue is published by The Art Institute of Chicago and distributed by Yale University Press ($65, hardcover).

Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930), Map, 1962, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Marcia Simon Weisman, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo: Brian Forrest.

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Racing Thoughts, 1984, Oil on canvas, 50 x 75", The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, Phoenix, Maryland, © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, Photograph Jamie M. Stukenberg / Professional Graphics Inc., Rockford, Illinois.