Thursday, March 20, 2014

Johns, Jasper

Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood
107.3 x 153.8 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
-Fair use-

"One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag," Johns said, "and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it."
A critic of the time encapsulated this painting's ambivalence by asking, "Is this a flag or a painting?"

Flag is arguably the painting for which Johns is best known. Created when he was 24, two years after he was discharged from the US Army. This painting was the first of many works that Johns has said were inspired by a dream of the U.S. flag in 1954. It is arguably the painting for which Johns is best known.

Jasper Johns, Jr. (1930-), born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in South Carolina, is an American contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and printmaking. Together with Rauschenberg and several Abstract Expressionist painters of the previous generation, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman, Johns is one of the most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century. He also ranks with Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Munch, and Picasso as one of the greatest printmakers of any era.

Johns' early mature work, of the mid- to late 1950s, invented a new style that helped to engender a number of subsequent art movements, among them Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual art. The new style has usually been understood to be coolly antithetical to the expressionistic gestural abstraction of the previous generation. This is partly because, while his painting extended the allover compositional techniques of Abstract Expressionism, his use of these techniques stresses conscious control rather than spontaneity.

The American flag subject is typical of his use of quotidian imagery in the mid - to late 1950s. As he explained, the imagery derives from "things the mind already knows," utterly familiar icons such as flags, targets, stenciled numbers, ale cans, and, slightly later, maps of the U.S. As Johns became well known - and perhaps as he realized his audience could be relied upon to study his new work - his subjects with a demonstrable prior existence expanded. In addition to popular icons, he chose images that he identified in interviews as things he had seen - for example, a pattern of flagstones he glimpsed on a wall while driving. Throughout his career, Johns has included in most of his art certain marks and shapes that clearly display their derivation from factual, unimagined things in the world, including handprints and footprints, casts of parts of the body, or stamps made from objects found in his studio, such as the rim of a tin can.