WOW! – Work of the Week – Frank Stella – Jasper’s Dilemma



Frank Stella
Jasper’s Dilemma, from Jasper’s Dilemma
1973
Offset Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Frank Stella defiantly departed from Abstract Expressionism through a complete restructuring of the idea of painting. He revolutionized the field and inspired changes still felt today.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Stella’s Jasper’s Dilemma, an homage to fellow artist Jasper Johns who he admired greatly.

Jasper’s Dilemma is formed of two “mitered” mazes as Stella called them. Mitered joints are joints that are beveled, usually at a 45 degree angle to form a corner, such as standard picture frame edges. Both mazes seem identical in structure, divided into 4 triangles whose points don’t quite meet at the center, however, the colored maze spirals outward in a counter-clockwise path from the center and the black, while the black and white maze follows a clockwise route.

Stella eliminated subjectivity in his work through using arbitrary mathematical measurements, forcing the viewer to think about the relationship between color and form. Johns on the other hand, created compositions of recognizable items, closing the gap between the object and its representation, transforming an object into art.

Johns would often create a work in color, then reexamine it in shades of grey. This “dilemma” is posed in Stella’s tributary work (which holds both the representation in color and in grey), between the “seduction of the spectrum against the rigors of the grey scale.” The title of this work and its color scheme make explicit reference to Johns’s statement that the more he worked in color, the more he saw gray.

For Johns, the use of grey was a means to think about color through its absence. Johns initially used grey tones as a statement of skepticism or anticipation, but it evolved into a profound examination of the meaning of color itself. Grey was the most appropriate hue with which to present “conceptual” art since it is less stimulating, allowing for more space for ideas.

In removing color, the artists refocus the viewer’s attention to consider the means of representation, over what is represented and, to consider how does something come to have meaning, rather than what does it mean.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jasper Johns – Device





Jasper Johns
Device
1971-72
Lithograph
33 1/2 x 29 in.
Edition of 62
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

“I tend to like things that already exist.” Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns is the world’s most critically acclaimed living artist. His work bridges the immediate post-World War II modernist trends of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism with subsequent movements of Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. 

Johns was ushered into the New York art scene in 1953, when he met Robert Rauschenberg. The two artists shared an intense relationship, both romantic and artistic, from 1954 to 1961. They had neighboring studio spaces and deeply influenced each other’s artwork, exchanging ideas and techniques that would allow them to break from Abstract Expressionism. Their relationship would lead to Johns’ discovery by famed art dealer Leo Castelli, who, while visiting Rauschenberg’s studio met Johns and saw his work. Castelli offered the young Jasper Johns his first solo show on the spot. It was during his first exhibition that Alfred Barr, the founding director of the MoMA, purchased a number pieces that were on display, instantly making Jasper Johns a force in the art world.

Johns’ breakthrough style was to appropriate popular iconography in his works with a rich treatment of  the surface as lush and painterly. By representing common objects and images in the realm of fine art, Johns broke down the boundaries traditionally separating fine art and everyday life. However, rather than direct representation or abstraction, Johns made signs, like flags and targets, iconic images in his works. The “things the mind already knows” were his ideal subject because of the varied meanings each carried with it. This would lay the foundation for the Pop art movement’s aesthetic embrace of commodity culture, paving the path for Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist among many, many other post-war artists. 

While Johns continued to produce paintings that incorporated Abstract Expressionism’s gestures and color blocking, he shifted his focus from the finished image to the concept behind it. His process, which he believed to be the actual art, took on greater importance. The artist made a seamless transition into print making. For Johns, printmaking was a medium that encouraged experimentation through the ease with which it allowed for repeat endeavors. His innovations in screen printing, lithography, and etching revolutionized the field. 

As the Pop art movement grew around him, Johns left behind the colorful works filled with familiar gestures and images and turned to a darker palette. Some critics attribute the shift away from color and toward the grays, blacks, and whites that dominate many of his canvases from the early 1960s to the rocky end of his relationship with Rauschenberg. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Jasper Johns’ Device.

Created in 1971-72, Device masterfully plays with different tones of grey, white and beige. The works that use what Johns called “the device,” were made from two stretcher bars attached to a canvas frame with butterfly screws, creating a mechanical arm, that would be used to scrape the paint on the surface in a circular shape. All of these elements from the “real” world undercut the traditional idea of a painting as an illusion. The development of the device theme in Johns’ work progressed to incorporate other themes, such as the abundant use of text. His techniques stress conscious control rather than spontaneity.

Over the past fifty years Johns has created a body of rich and complex work. His rigorous attention to the themes of popular imagery and abstraction has set the standards for American art. Constantly challenging the technical possibilities of printmaking, Johns laid the groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists that came after him.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Jasper Johns “Target With Plaster Casts”

Target With Plaster Casts Stock

Jasper Johns
Target With Plaster Casts
1979 – 80
Etching and aquatint in colors on BFK Rives paper
29 1/2 x 22 3/8 in.
Edition of 88

Engraved signed, dated and numbered

About This Work:

Jasper Johns is one of the most acclaimed and influential American artists of the 20th century.

Born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns grew up wanting to be an artist. He studied briefly at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in the early Fifties. After a visit to Philadelphia, with his good friend Robert Rauschenberg, to see Marcel Duchamp’s painting, The Large Glass (1915-23), Johns became very interested in his work. Duchamp had revolutionized the art world with his “readymades” — a series of found objects presented as finished works of art. This irreverence for the fixed attitudes toward what could be considered art was a substantial influence for Johns.

Johns’ richly worked paintings of maps, flags, and targets in the late 1950’s, led the artistic community away from Abstract Expressionism toward a new emphasis on the concrete. Johns laid the groundwork for both Pop Art and Minimalism. Today, his prints and paintings set record prices at auction.

In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli visited Rauschenberg’s studio and saw Johns’ work for the first time. Castelli was so impressed with the 28-year-old painter’s ability and inventiveness that he offered him a show on the spot. At that first exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces, making it clear that Johns was to become a major force in the art world.

This weeks Work Of the Week is Jasper Johns’ Target With Plaster Casts.
This work represents one of Jasper Johns’ most famous subjects: the target.

The image of the target emerged in Johns’ work in 1955, in paintings that incorporate frieze-like arrangements of plaster casts taken from parts of the body. The two earliest Target paintings are Target With Four Faces and Target With Plaster Casts.

Targets by Johns, feature a depiction of an actual target that is, for all practical purposes, utterly interchangeable with the real thing. However, unlike the flag or the numbers, which are also familiar images from this period of the artist’s career, the flat target is simultaneously representational and abstract (a number or a flag can never be divorced from its status as a familiar sign). This makes the target susceptible to even more ambiguities.

The target allowed Johns to explore a familiar two-dimensional object, with its simple internal geometric structure and a complex symbolic meaning. He was attracted to painting “things the mind already knows“, and claimed that using a familiar object like the target freed himself from the need to create a new design and allowed him to focus on the execution of the painting. 

Johns worked on this target with a sort of deadpan irony to test what one expects a work of art to do. A painted target automatically negates the use of a real one, and its use is lost. It stops being a sign and becomes an image, where the center is not more important than the other circles that form it.

Meanwhile, the “plaster casts” on the top part of the artwork represent bits of the human body (foot, nose, face, hand, ear, penis, heart, breast, and lungs) set in their boxes. They are transformed in exactly the opposite way. Their anonymity makes them like fossils or even more, like words, signs that stand for classes of things. One would like to see them as elements of a portrait, but they cannot be read in that way. They are images turning into signs. 

And so, in Target With Plaster Casts, two systems of seeing are locked in perfect mutual opposition, the sign becoming a painting and sculpture becoming a sign.

These kind of works by Jasper Johns were extremely new to the museum goers and art lovers, especially at a time in which the art world was searching for new ideas.
Johns artworks were something which were never seen before. The distinct style, and the simplicity behind it, eventually captured the interest of the art world.

Over the past fifty years Johns has created a body of rich and complex work. His rigorous attention to the themes of popular imagery and abstraction has set the standards for American art. Constantly challenging the technical possibilities of printmaking, painting and sculpture, Johns laid the groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists. Today, he remains at the forefront of American art, with work represented in nearly every major museum collection.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Jasper Johns “Voice 2”

voice-2

JASPER JOHNS
Voice 2
1982
7 color lithograph
17 x 23 in.
Edition of 46

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Born in Georgia in 1930 and raised in Allendale, South Carolina, Jasper Johns grew up wanting to be an artist. He studied briefly at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in early 1950’s.
In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli visited Rauschenberg’s studio and saw Johns’ work for the first time. Castelli was so impressed with the 28 year old painter’s ability and inventiveness that he offered him a show on the spot.
At that first exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces, making it clear that at Johns was to become a major force in the art world.

Working in New York in the 1950s, Johns became part of a community of artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, that was seeking an alternative to the emotional nature of Abstract Expressionism.
The artwork of Jasper Johns can be considered a bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. His ongoing stylistic and technical experimentation, his maps, flags, numbers, letters and targets laid the groundwork for Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. 

In the mid-1960’s, Johns executed a large painting and lithograph, both entitled Voice. He then returned to this theme in a very large, three-part painting called Voice 2, which he worked on from 1968 through 1971.
The composition of Voice 2 was broken into three panels with the thought that, by hanging the panels in different orders, the artist could simulate the experience of a viewer circumambulating a painted cylinder, beginning at different points. The three elements of Voice 2 were conceived such that they could be hung in varying sequences. They were based on the idea that, in conjunction, they formed a continuous cylindrical surface – a way of overcoming the two-dimensional character of painting.

With several different print versions of the canvas – this work, Voice 2, among them – Johns varied the colors and experimented with the placement of the rectangles making up each composition. The title of the work, which forms the imagery, can be read in a rotating cylindrical pattern.

Johns has always been fascinated with numbers, letters and words. In this work, he plays with the letters of the word VOICE in a very personal way, superimposing the figures to create a multiple image, so that each time the eye adjusts to focus on a letter the spectator perceives a slightly different picture.

These kind of works by Jasper Johns were extremely new to the museum goers and art lovers, especially at a time in which the art world was searching for new ideas.
Johns artworks were something which were never seen before. The distinct style, and the simplicity behind it, eventually captured the interest of the art world.

Johns is still one of most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century, and also considered as one of the greatest printmakers of any era.
Over his 50 year career, Jasper Johns created his own distinct style, and a vast series of pieces, that not only were they ahead of their time, but also largely influenced other artists. To this day, his works still set some of the highest auction records, especially for a living artist.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Jasper Johns “Two Flags”

Two Flags 2

JASPER JOHNS
Two Flags
1970-72
Lithograph
27 3/8 x 32 1/4 in.
Edition of 36

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

“Jasper Johns did not make a painting of the American flag,  he made the American flag a painting” – Ron English

Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Georgia, and from an early age, he grew up wanting to be an artist. When in New York City, where he moved to in his twenties, he met the artist and future long-term lover Robert Rauschenberg, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and composer John Cage, all of whom profoundly influenced each other.
In 1958, Johns entered the public eye when dealer Leo Castelli, impressed with the creativity and simplicity behind Johns’ works, noticed him; at age 28, Johns was awarded a show at Castelli’s gallery, which then lead to his first sale, 3 paintings bought by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Jasper Johns is now one of the most acclaimed and influential American artists of the 20th century.

His career began with a desperate act. At 24, in 1954, two years after he was discharged from the U.S. Army, he destroyed nearly all his art. Then came a kind of vision. “I dreamed I painted a large American flag”. The next morning he began doing just that. His thoughts must have been racing; the enamel house paint he was using wasn’t drying fast enough to capture them. So he switched to wax encaustic. This ancient medium, made of heated beeswax mixed with pigment, dries almost immediately, preserving and showing every brushstroke. 

This painting was the first of about 100 works that Johns has said were inspired by the dream of the American flag, the painting for which Johns is best known.
Jasper Johns’s selection of the American flag allows him to explore a familiar two-dimensional object, with its simple internal geometric structure and a complex symbolic meaning. He was attracted to painting “things the mind already knows“, and claimed that using a familiar object like the flag (but also targets, letters or numbers) freed himself from the need to create a new design and allowed him to focus on the execution of the painting. 

Jasper Johns’ flag is not just an artwork; it has become one of the most important symbols in the American art. When the first flag was released, critics were unsure whether it was a painted flag or a painting of a flag; Johns later said it was both. For this reason, this work is often described as  a piece of Neo-Dadaist and Conceptual art. Due to the playfully subversive appropriation and use of a commonplace icon, it also anticipates aspects of Pop Art.
In the middle of the 1950s, the flag found itself as the bridge between the expressive artistic flow of the dominant Abstract Expressionism and the recognizable icons of the rising Pop Art culture.

Working with a semiotic ambiguity and a variety of meanings, Johns produced an artwork that was meant to be resolved within the mind of the viewer. This flag is not a realistic representation. It is frozen in its motion. This flag will never waver. It is not a flag, it is a monument to a flag. It serves to question what a painting is, and how it is to be differentiated from the object it represents.

This print, Two Flags, represents two vertical flags and it shows how the artist used to produce flags through variations of not only palette but also position, and repetition, divorcing the flag from its symbolic meaning and focusing on the materials and on the concept.


It is also clearly monochromatic. This monochromatic image introduces another important feature of Jasper Johns’ career. Jasper Johns painted 11 monochromatic flags, of which 7 are gray. In Two Flags, Johns used gray to establish uniformity between flat surfaces and dimensional objects. The color gray has been a singular and unparalleled preoccupation for the artist, and it became the protagonist of Jasper Johns’ so-called Gray Period, which goes from 1961 to the 1970’s. The year 1961 is significant, since it is the year in which Johns’s influential working relationship with the artist Robert Rauschenberg dissolved.

Initially serving as a means of emphasizing the physical properties of an object by draining it of color and emotions (he often used to say that he liked “to paint with no emotions“), the artist’s employment of gray has evolved into a larger concern. Gray, black, and white exist in Johns’ work not just as colors, but also as ideas and materials. Jasper Johns, indeed, believed the process to be the most important part of making an artwork (This fact led him to experiment with countless media, such as oil, encaustic, ink, pencil, collage and relief, and a prolific career in print making).

In November 2014 one of Johns’ encaustic flag paintings was auctioned off for $36,000,000 at Sotheby’s New York.


It is unbelievable that, back in 1955, Jasper Johns completed a painting that seems to take a second to see but a lifetime to come to terms with.
Jasper Johns’ flags will always encapsulate the ambivalence of “Is this a flag or is it a painting?”. Flag will never conclusively answer the question.

WOW! – Work of the Week 8/17/15

Jasper Johns, Device

Jasper Johns, Device, 1971-72

Jasper Johns, Device, 1971-72

Jasper Johns
Device
1971-72
Lithograph
38 1/2 x 29 in.
Edition of 62
This piece is signed and numbered in pencil.

About This Work:

Device is an important work from Japser Johns’ gray period, as it is derived from his famous painting Device (1962-63), which shows his experimentation with mechanism and its relation to the artist’s hand.

In the early 1960s, Johns introduced a new process-driven motif referred to as “device” that he used to make his works. He would apply paint with a studio or household object rather than a paint brush, and then often affix those objects to the canvas. For Johns, the “device”  whether ruler, wooden slat or broom is an extension of the artist’s hand, much like the paint brush.

Works from John’s gray period are highly sought after. For Johns, the color gray, serves as a means of emphasizing the physical properties of an object by draining it of color. However, his use of gray as a color draws attention to the condition of gray itself, elevating it to more than a color, but also as an idea and material.


About The Artist:

In the late 1950’s, Jasper Johns emerged as force in the American art scene. His richly worked paintings of maps, flags, and targets led the artistic community away from Abstract Expressionism toward a new emphasis on the concrete. Johns laid the groundwork for both Pop Art and Minimalism. Today, his prints and paintings set record prices at auction.

Born and raised in Allendale, South Carolina, Jasper Johns grew up wanting to be an artist.  He studied briefly at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in the early fifties.

After a visit to Philadelphia, with his good friend Robert Rauschenberg, to see Marcel Duchamp’s painting, The Large Glass (1915-23), Johns became very interested in his work. Duchamp had revolutionized the art world with his “readymades” — a series of found objects presented as finished works of art. This irreverence for the fixed attitudes toward what could be considered art was a substantial influence on Johns. 

The modern art community was searching for new ideas to succeed the pure emotionality of the Abstract Expressionists. Johns’ paintings of targets, and maps, invited both the wrath and praise of critics. Johns’ early work combined a serious concern for the craft of painting with an everyday, almost absurd, subject matter. The meaning of the painting could be found in the painting process itself. It was a new experience for gallery goers to find paintings solely of such things as flags and numbers. 

The simplicity and familiarity of the subject matter piqued viewer interest in both Johns’ motivation and his process.   Johns explains, “There may or may not be an idea, and the meaning may just be that the painting exists.” 

In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli visited Rauschenberg’s studio and saw Johns’ work for the first time. Castelli was so impressed with the 28-year-old painter’s ability and inventiveness that he offered him a show on the spot. At that first exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces, making it clear that at Johns was to become a major force in the art 

Over the past fifty years Johns has created a body of rich and complex work. His rigorous attention to the themes of popular imagery and abstraction has set the standards for American art. Constantly challenging the technical possibilities of printmaking, painting and sculpture, Johns laid the groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists. Today, he remains at the forefront of American art, with work represented in nearly every major museum collection.