Summary The essay analyzes Target with Plaster Casts by Jasper Johns
A catalogue published by SFMOMA on the occasion of the exhibition features new thematic texts by veteran and recent Johns scholars alike. Essays range from historical to critical to poetic, and take an in-depth look at specific works of art and series from all periods of Johns's career. Authors include exhibition curator Gary Garrels; Roberta Bernstein, author and director of the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Sculpture of Jasper Johns; Brian M. Reed, professor of English at the University of Washington; James Rondeau, chair and Frances and Thomas Dittmer Curator of the Department of Contemporary Art at The Art Institute of Chicago; Mark Rosenthal, author of Jasper Johns: Work Since 1974; Nan Rosenthal, author of The Drawings of Jasper Johns; Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at The University of Texas, Austin; and John Yau, author of A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns. The book also features a new chronology that enumerates Johns's many exhibitions in the Bay Area.
Art culture essay figuring in jasper johns
Two days ago I was worrying about beginnings, and now it is an ending that has to be devised. So I am again at my desk, weighing its possible materials, and how they should be taken in hand. I have two responses left to consider, and there are of course reasons to have left them for last. On the one hand is the difficulty of facing up to Rachael DeLue’s disapproval of my treatment of Johns, and on the other, the carefully delayed pleasure of turning to Brigid Doherty, who has chosen to write, not about Johns but about Eva Hesse’s (verbal) language, as engaged in my chapter ten.
Jasper Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1930 and currently lives and works in New York City. He studied art at the University of South Carolina, but soon moved to New York where he met Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham, becoming a central force in the intensive reconsideration of contemporary arts unfolding at the time. In the 1950s, he developed a distinctive painting style that would help lead American art away from the then dominant movement of Abstract Expressionism. Unlike that energetic style, Johns's work was seemingly mute and serene, at once taciturn and vibrant, quixotic and matter-of-fact. Apart from occasional found objects or cryptic references to his own life, he painted mostly impersonal motifs early in his career, such as numbers, maps, and flags. The exact correspondence of figure and ground in his work also challenged the traditional distinction between an object and its depiction.
Jasper Johns Jasper Johns is one of my favorite artists
If this insidious “ideological invitation” is how hegemony works, it must be a mistake, a blindness to militarism, racism, consumerism, and other well-known features of American hegemony. Such an invitation won’t be expression in the sense valued by Abstract Expressionism, for instance, as a vehicle for real meaning; it will be at the best a sales pitch, a rationalization, or a seduction. The unanswerable question—whether Johns’s Flag is a painting of a flag or a painted flag—opens an ontological uncertainty that may leave no room for meaning. Wagner notes the crux—the uncertainty about whether Johns belongs to modernism or postmodernism—but discovers a Johns who buys his centrality to the project of postwar American art at the risk of exemplifying a literalist sensibility (that rigorous, tautological relation of image and object that excludes expression and questions signification) and a mendacious, theatrical one (that uses its sensuous presence to seduce, to distract, to bamboozle).
Jasper Johns was a painter, sculptor, and a printmaker
In this respect, Johns’s flags have become pertinent again for the present political moment, which in many ways is not so different from that of their making and early reception. Questions about the relations of individual and state were certainly pressing in 1955, when the House Un-American Activities Committee fought the Cold War by ruthlessly prosecuting internal subversion in every corner of the culture and society. Artists were among those being forced to identify one another as current or former communists and traitors to the nation. Like anyone called before the HUAC, or anyone fearing such a summons, each would have had to evaluate her/his personal relation to the country and its actions. Empathy is easy in the present moment, when the “War on Terror” has filled the vacuum left by the dismantling of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War, and when WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and Bradley Manning are ubiquitous in the news media.
Johns and Newman: An Encounter in Art by Barbara Rose
The essays gathered in A House Divided were written over more than a decade, so one can’t quibble with the artists Wagner picked. But her question about living inside U.S. hegemony brought to mind two other artists in particular. One was Sol LeWitt, especially in light of the fact that his first wall drawing appeared in an exhibition in 1968 protesting the Vietnam War. As with Johns, there was the evacuation of “the semblance of invention or originality,” though this was achieved very differently, and now there was engagement with the architectural support: we can certainly see in this the logic of administration, and the critique of the object status of the artwork, but Wagner’s essay on Johns alone (leaving aside the rest of the book), must have us poke and prod at this some more. How was it possible to experience the conceptual grid on the gallery wall as an appropriate form of anti-imperial protest, in 1968? And how so, if we see the early LeWitt, unlike Johns, as also deemphasizing the role of the studio, as either refuge or laboratory (though the studio would subsequently return as central to his production)?