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"Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns since 1983"
2005-02-09 until 2005-04-24
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin, , IE

The first major exhibition in Ireland by the iconic American artist Jasper Johns opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 9 February 2005. Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns since 1983 comprises some 90 paintings, prints and drawings created over a period of significant development in the artist’s work. During this time Johns moved away from the flags, targets and other symbols, which had brought him instant acclaim in the late 1950s, to a range of arresting new imagery, much of it intensely personal, melancholic and even surreal. Organised by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, which has an extensive collection of Johns’ work, the exhibition is presented in association with THE IRISH TIMES.

Jasper Johns first came to public attention over 50 years ago, with his now-famous images of flags, numerals and impersonal household objects, or - as he described them - “things we already know”. Radically different from the prevailing Abstract Expressionism, they offered a new way of thinking about the nature and function of art. However, by the early 1980s he had adopted a much more personal iconography, including things present in his home and studio, allusions to his childhood and family and quotations from artworks - his own and others’. He acknowledged this change in 1984: “In my early work I tried to hide my personality, my psychological state, my emotion…. I sort of stuck to my guns for a while, but eventually it seemed like a losing battle. Finally, one must simply drop the reserve.”

Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns since 1983 has at its core nearly all the prints made during the period, drawn from the Walker’s complete archive of his graphic works. The balance comprises paintings and drawings which expand these motifs and weave in imagery familiar from his earlier work. Several works based on the important Ventriloquist canvas from 1983 are included. The Seasons paintings of 1985-86 are represented by the beautiful Winter (1986), as well as several prints and drawings of the overall theme.

John’s use of traced outlines of works by Hans Holbein, Matthias Gr?newald and others is explored in a number of objects, including the encaustic and sand painting Green Angel (1990). The exhibition also presents some wonderful images from the so-called Catenary series from the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as several very recent works that incorporate the outlines of a painting by Edward Manet. In addition to the works from the Walker collection, paintings and drawings have also been loaned from many other important public and private collections, including Johns’ own collection. Several works in the show have never been publicly exhibited prior to this exhibition being shown at the Walker from November 2003 to February 2004.

Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, and was raised in South Carolina. He moved to New York in the early 1950s, where he became friendly with a number of artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, who were inventing new ways of exploring the experiences of daily life in their art, music and dance works. During this period Johns’ work was centred on commonly seen objects such as flags, letters and numerals and even studio and household objects such as paintbrushes, tableware and coat hangers. His radical departure from this subject matter, which began in 1983, forms the heart of this new exhibition.

The exhibition is curated by Joan Rothfuss, Curator of the Permanent Collection at the Walker Art Center, and is made possible by the generous support of Judy and Kenneth Dayton, Martha and Bruce Atwater, Margaret and Angus Wurtele, the Broad Art Foundation and the Fifth Floor Foundation. The exhibition has been shown at the Walker Art Center, the Grenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, and IVAM (Institut Valencia d’Art Modern), Valencia.


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