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Indepth Arts News:

"Jasper Johns: Prints from Four Decades"
2001-06-03 until 2001-10-07
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC, USA

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.

Jasper Johns,
Untitled, 2000
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen
copyright Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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