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


Voice 2
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.