The work of Jasper Johns has never fit into any category. Not a minimalist, abstract expressionist, Dadaist, modernist or Pop artist, Johns influenced all of those art movements, but his style remains distinctly his own.

Jasper Johns in his Pearl Street studio. 1955

What Johns did for the artists who have come after him, was to clear the way for them to use objects as points of reference. Johns’ masterful technique and originality has made his work highly valued in the art market, often setting record prices.

Subversive in the 1950s

New York art dealer, Leo Castelli, gave Johns his first solo show in 1958. MoMA’s first director, Alfred Barr, was so impressed by Johns’ work that he bought three paintings, including Flag. The image of the American flag, done in encaustic over layers of newspaper, was such a new concept and so subversive at the time, that Barr convinced his friend, architect Philip Johnson, who was a curator at the museum, to buy the painting and hold it in reserve until Barr could convince MoMA’s board of directors to include it in the museum’s permanent collection.

Jasper Johns Flag. 1954-1955

Hitting the Target

Johns used the image of a target in many of his paintings and prints. Unlike the flag, which has emotional, historic and political connotations, the concentric circles of the target are more neutral and ambiguous. He presents the target as object, allowing the viewer to experience each work as it is presented, free of cultural expectations.

Jasper Johns
Target

Getting Personal

Even Johns’ use of color is thoughtful and often ambiguous. He uses primary red, yellow and blue, but sometime spells out the names of the colors, and not in the color itself.

In Periscope, available at the Surovek Gallery, Johns stenciled the names of the colors within the color fields.

Jasper Johns
Periscope, 1962

Periscope is a tribute to Hart Crane, whose poetry resonated with Johns. In 1932, Crane threw himself overboard while traveling on a steamship in the Gulf of Mexico. Hart was 32, and had struggled with alcohol abuse, his sexuality, and depression for much of his life.

Periscope was done after John’s breakup with Robert Rauschenberg, a time of intense introspection for both men and a time when they created some of their finest works.

Jasper Johns Work at Surovek

Please contact us for more information about Pericope or the other fine works of Jasper Johns in our gallery.

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