Wednesday, July 25, 2012
101 ICONIC PRINTS BY AMERICAN MASTER JASPER JOHNS
One of the most celebrated artists of the modern era, Jasper Johns (b. 1930) transformed the field of printmaking. For over 50 years, he has tested the medium’s boundaries, reinventing subjects like targets, American flags, and images from art history in endless variation. The first exhibition of his work at The Phillips Collection features prints from each decade, with groundbreaking examples of lithography, intaglio, silkscreen, and lead relief. Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme is on view June 2 through Sept. 9, 2012 at The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street, NW | Washington, DC 20009 | 202-387-2151
The exhibition spans Johns’s entire printmaking career, beginning with his first experiments and culminating in 2011. In 1960, Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) founding director Tatyana Grosman encouraged Johns to work on lithographic stones, and he completed five prints and began his celebrated 0–9 series. Inspired, Johns saw printmaking as a way to transform ideas he had already developed in painting, drawing, and sculpture.
Johns mines art history, including his own work, to repeat and vary motifs. Fragments–According to What (1971), for example, excavates six details from his 1964 painting, According to What. The exhibition brings together all six prints from this important series. In 1976, Johns partnered with writer Samuel Beckett to create Foirades/Fizzles on view in the exhibition. The book includes 33 etchings, which revisit an earlier work by Johns and five text fragments by Beckett.
“Jasper Johns’s persistent experimentation not only transformed printmaking but set the standard for contemporary art,” says Phillips Director Dorothy Kosinski. “A champion of visionary American artists since 1921, the Phillips is proud to present over five decades of Johns’s graphic achievements, including our own The Critic Sees (1967). We are deeply grateful to the John and Maxine Belger Foundation whose collaboration makes a project on this scale possible.”
Opening with early prints like Target (1960), the exhibition unfolds to reveal the artist’s evolving interests. At the end of the 1960s, he experiments with etching in 1st Etchings Portfolio (1968). In the 1970s, an abstract aesthetic emerges with a crosshatch motif in works like Corpse and Mirror (1976). In the 1980s, autobiographical elements enter Johns’s work such as a tracing of the artist’s shadow in The Seasons (1987). In the 1990s, images from art history appear in After Holbein (1993–94) and Green Angel (1991). Johns’s latest prints, Fragments of a Letter (2010) and Shrinky Dinks 1–4 (2011), layer text, cubist forms, and hand gestures from American Sign Language.
Johns’s collaborations with master printers, including those at ULAE in New York and Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, are essential to his work. They empowered him to test methods unprecedented in the history of the medium. He said: “It’s the printmaking techniques that interest me . . . the technical innovation possible.” Six ingenious lead reliefs realized at Gemini G.E.L. from 1969 to 1970 are featured in the exhibition, as are several important collaborations with ULAE including Decoy (1971), considered Johns’s first offset print, Voice 2 (1982), as well as the artist’s newest prints.
Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme is organized by The Phillips Collection in collaboration with the John and Maxine Belger Foundation. Exhibition curator is Phillips Assistant Curator Renée Maurer.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, Jasper Johns is a central figure in modern and contemporary art. His work is represented in nearly every major museum collection and has been the subject of one-person exhibitions throughout the world. Born in Georgia in 1930 and raised in South Carolina, Johns grew up wanting to be an artist. He moved to New York City in his 20s and emerged as a force in the American art scene in 1958 with a solo show at Leo Castelli Gallery from which the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces. For over 50 years Johns has challenged the possibilities of printmaking, painting, and sculpture, laying the groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists. He represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1988 and was awarded the Grand Prix. Johns currently lives and works in Sharon, Conn., and the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
1) Jasper Johns, Flags II, 1970. Lithograph, 34 x 25 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
2) Jasper Johns, Figure 1, 1969. Lithograph, 37 3/4 x 31 in. Published by Gemini G.E.L. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
3) Jasper Johns, Target, 1960. Lithograph, 22 1/2 x 17 1/2 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
4) Jasper Johns, Bread, 1969. Embossing with object, 23 x 17 in. Published by Gemini G.E.L. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
5) Jasper Johns, Decoy, 1971. Lithograph with die cut, 41 x 29 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
6) Jasper Johns, Savarin, 1977. Lithograph, 45 x 35 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
7) Jasper Johns, Fragment—According to What (Leg and Chair), 1971. Lithograph, 35 x 30 in. Published by Gemini G.E.L. National Gallery of Art © Jasper Johns and Gemini G.E.L. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
ABOUT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
The Phillips Collection is one of the world’s most distinguished collections of impressionist and modern American and European art. Stressing the continuity between art of the past and present, it offers a strikingly original and experimental approach to modern art by combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently. The setting is similarly unconventional, featuring small rooms, a domestic scale, and a personal atmosphere. Artists represented in the collection include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Honoré Daumier, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, has an active collecting program and regularly organizes acclaimed special exhibitions, many of which travel internationally. The Intersections series features projects by contemporary artists, responding to art and spaces in the museum. The Phillips also produces award-winning education programs for K–12 teachers and students, as well as for adults. The museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art explores new ways of thinking about art and the nature of creativity, through artist visits and lectures, and provides a forum for scholars through courses, postdoctoral fellowships, and internships. Since 1941, the museum has hosted Sunday Concerts in its wood-paneled Music Room. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.