Monday, May 15, 2017

Jasper Johns, Famous and Famously Oblique

Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Flags I. Screenprint, 1973. Gift of Johanna and Leslie Garfield, on loan from the American Friends of the British Museum. © Jasper Johns/VAGA, New York/DACS, London 2017. © Tom Powel Imaging.

'I made the flags to open eyes... things which are seen and not looked at'
Happy birthday to artist Jasper Johns! His work uses recognisable symbols and double images to play with perception – ‘Flags I’ is actually made up of 15 colours. 

You can see his thought-provoking prints in The British Museums's  #AmericanDream exhibition –http://ow.ly/8t9N30bJjnS


The words of famous artists can become so well known that they nearly congeal into platitudes, at least where the art world is concerned. One such phrase is Barnett Newman's exuberant Abstract Expressionist battle cry, ''We are making it out of ourselves.'' Another is Jasper Johns's understated studio prescriptive, familiar to every artist of a certain age: ''Take an object. Do something with it. Do something else with it.''  Roberta Smith


With his hints at private desire and reticence, Mr. Johns is a control freak. To give him his due, he's still a virtuoso control freak, and the sheer fluency and imaginative energy of his multifarious techniques, while nothing new, inevitably elevate his closeted and obfuscating enterprise to a level that commands admiration, if purely on formal terms.  Michael Kimmelman. May 27, 2005


Johns is an intimidating figure in the New York art world, especially for a woman. And no one approaches his work without thinking about the evasive meanings of his words, the thought-provoking quality of his oral pronouncements and his booming laughter, a sound that comes from deep inside him and makes one leery of believing that he fully believes his own words. Speaking of artists and artworks that had been important to him, he told Grace Glueck in an interview in the ‘60s:

"Three works from the past have been important to me: Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass and Cézanne’s The Bather. But also, for any artist, things that occur during the period in which he’s working have equal importance, as Rauschenberg’s paintings do for me." Artnet.  AN ALLEGORY OF SUBLIMATION by Michéle C. Cone



JASPER JOHNS once said that he painted what ''the mind already knows.'' This emphasis distinguished his work from the Abstract Expressionists and their embrace of spontaneous gestures. He paved the way for Pop Art with imagery that is in the collective mind, so to speak: flags, targets, numbers and the letters of the alphabet. 

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Not really my cup of tea, but I like the use of color in some of the pieces. I am always attracted to color. Sometimes, it takes over the work and I don't see anything else.