The life's work of an artist who has had a profound influence on American art was
featured in this, the first full retrospective of Jasper Johns's work since
1977. Included in this comprehensive chronological survey were more than 225
paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures. These works, many from private
collections including Johns's own, span more than forty years; a number of the recent
images had never before been shown publicly.
Johns's art unites mastery, mystery, simplicity, and contradiction. His
methodical working process combines intense deliberation and experimentation,
obsessive craft, cycles of revision and repetition, and decisive shifts of
direction. Johns also frequently borrows images from other artists, which,
ironically, only underscores the originality of his own vision.
The exhibition opened with work from the mid1950s: paintings of flags, targets,
and numbers that seemingly sounded the death knell for Abstract Expressionism.
Although Johns has been hailed as the father of Pop art and Minimalism, the
loosely gestural abstractions of 195960 and the moodier gray imagery of the
fragmented human form in 196164 reflect the choice of a different path.
Johns's work with allover patterns of abstract "hatch-mark" strokes in the
1970s was represented with seldom-seen masterworks such as Scent (197374)
and Weeping Women (1975). His shift to realist figuration after 1980, and
his concern with the work of other artists and with autobiography, was chronicled
through individual paintings, pairs, and groups of works. The four reunited
Seasonspaintings (198586) offered an allegory of the artist's life
up to 1986. Concluding the show were two new, monumental canvases from 1994 and
1995 that seem to synthesize a densely layered, dreamlike reflection on the four
decades of this most remarkable, and consistently influential, career. The exhibition was organized by Kirk Varnedoe, Chief Curator, Department of
Painting and Sculpture.
The exhibition was sponsored by Philip Morris Companies Inc.
Additional support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. An
indemnity for the exhibition was granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The publications accompanying Jasper Johns: A Retrospective were made
possible by a generous gift from Emily Fisher Landau. The booklet accompanying
Jasper Johns: Process and Printmaking was made possible by grants from
The Contemporary Arts Council and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern
Art, The Associates of the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, and
Arthur and Susan Fleischer, Jr. The presentation of Jasper Johns:
A Retrospective at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, is supported by Ford Motor Company.