Johns collaborated with a group of Japanese master printers at Simca Print Artists, New York, to produce this elaborate screenprint—one of the artist’s first. It is unusual in its avoidance of the large areas of flat color that often characterize screenprints. Like Johns’s iconic flag paintings—built up with layers of encaustic (a waxy paint), newspaper scraps, canvas, and wood—this print was assembled through an extensive process, involving thirty-one separate screens printed in succession in fifteen colors. Of his work, the artist has said, “I am always interested in the physical form of whatever I am doing and often repeat an image in another physical form just to see what happens.” With more varied marks, brighter colors, and a layer of varnish on the right-hand flag, the work offers two simultaneous interpretations of the same subject.
Gallery label from New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, June 13, 2012–January 7, 2013.