During Jasper Johns’ nearly seven-decade career he has produced enough work for a retrospective at two major museums: Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror at both the Whitney Museum of Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been garnering critical acclaim.
Johns’ most famous works, the flag and target paintings that gained him early recognition, make up just a portion of the exhibits. His fine art prints have proven to be favorites of art critics and a new generation of art lovers who are discovering the importance of Johns’ works.
New York Times art critic, Holland Cotter, was among those impressed by Johns’ printmaking: “But the real glory,” Cotter wrote of the exhibit, “is a selection of abstract prints Johns made between 1977 and 1995 with Japanese artists in Tokyo and New York (he is seen in action in an accompanying film by Katy Martin).
‘These prints, composed of unstable patterns of crosshatched parallel lines, are collectively titled “Usuyuki” or “light snow,” the name of an 18th-century Kabuki play that Johns has described as being about “the fleeting quality of beauty in the world.” Awareness of that reality has always been part of his art, and is especially pronounced in his late art, which is the work I’ve come to love most, precisely because it’s not arcane or hermetic; it’s fully felt and reality-grounded.”
Johns began printmaking in 1969, and has worked with master printers in New York, London, Los Angeles, Paris and Japan.
At age 91, Johns is considered one of the world’s most influential artists and one of its most enigmatic. He doesn’t often talk about his work, or try to explain it, allowing each viewer to have their own unique experience with each piece.
The idea of painting a flag, he said, came to him in a dream. The outstretched hand in Periscope is an homage to the American poet Hart Crane, whose poetry resonated with Johns. Crane committed suicide at age 32 by diving off a ship into the Gulf of Mexico. Just before he disappeared below the sea, Crane reached his hand above the waves.
Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror will be on display at the Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum through February 13, 2022.
Will Fenstermaker. The Formulaic Juxtapositions of Jasper Johns’s ‘Mind/Mirror. Frieze. November 12, 2021.
Carnegie Museum of Art. An Art of Changes: Jasper Johns Prints, 1960–2018. October 10, 2019.
Holland Cotter. Jasper Johns: Divide and Conquer. The New York Times. September 23, 2021.
Deborah Solomon. Seeing Double With Jasper Johns. The New York Times. September 25, 2021.