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"Jasper Johns: Prints from Four Decades"
2001-06-03 until 2001-10-07
National Gallery of Art
Familiar images of targets, maps, flags, ale cans, and body parts, interpreted in prints
by renowned American artist Jasper Johns (b.1930), are among the approximately 60 works in the
exhibition Jasper Johns: Prints from Four Decades. On view in the West Building of the National
Gallery of Art from 3 June through 7 October 2001, the exhibition comprises works dating from 1960 to
2000 that demonstrate the range of print processes Johns has explored, including lithography, intaglio,
screenprint, relief, monotype, and related lead relief sculpture. Prints in the exhibition are primarily from
the Gallery's permanent collection augmented by promised gifts to the Gallery, and loans from the artist.
The exhibition opens in conjunction with The Unfinished Print and American Naive Paintings, which
will be on view during the same period in adjacent galleries.
Among the world's most influential American artists of the postwar period, Jasper Johns is also widely
regarded as one of the greatest printmakers of our time, said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery
of Art. An exhibition of this scope provides enormous insight into Johns' creative process and his
evolution as an artist.
Arranged thematically, the exhibition opens with a selection of prints that highlight two iconic motifs
Johns has utilized throughout his career--numerals (some individual and others superimposed on one
another) as well as letters of the alphabet. Also included are additional examples of other well-known
Johnsian images, such as targets, maps, flags, ale cans, body parts, and complex compositions that
incorporate and/or make reference to all these themes. Interested in the play between image and medium,
Johns often explores the same subject using different techniques and media. For example, in this
exhibition, five versions of the American flag, each in a different medium, represent different approaches to
the same motif over a period of forty years.
Several works then demonstrate Johns' use of a crosshatch pattern-clusters of short, parallel strokes
systematically arranged on the picture plane. Johns created this random and abstract motif, which has been
prominent in his works since the early 1970s, in response to lines he noticed on a passing car.
The exhibition closes with a selection of works in which Johns incorporates a rich array of images that
reference art history--appropriating motifs from earlier artists such as Matthias Grünewald and Edvard
Munch. He also employs images that allude to personal possessions such as vessels by Mississippi
ceramicist, George Ohr (1857-1918). An ancestral family photograph and a floor plan from an ancestral
family residence are referenced as well. Having grown out of the Johns' concerns with time, memory, and
autobiography, these works encourage the viewer to stop and contemplate the range of possible meanings
embedded in them.
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen
copyright Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY