Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jasper Johns: New Sculpture and Works on Paper

[“Numbers” (2007), aluminum. “Untitled” (2010), acrylic & collage on paper. “0-9”(2008), silver.]

Featuring nine sculptures completed over the past five years, “New Sculpture and Works on Paper,” up at the Matthew Marks Gallery on West 22nd Street through July 1, 2011, is Jasper Johns’ third one-person exhibition of recent work at the gallery since 2005. Included pieces represent the largest body of work Johns has completed in his career spanning more than five decades.

With one exception, the sculptures featured in this show are Johns’ classic grid of numerals 0 through 9. Making these sculptures in wax first, Johns works their surfaces in a complex pattern of textures. He then often adds collaged elements such as a key, newsprint impressions, a cast of Merce Cunningham’s foot, or a cast of his own hand. Casting them in bronze, aluminum, or silver, he then finally, applies a unique patina to each. The exception is a double-sided relief titled “Fragment of a Letter,” which incorporates part of a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his friend, the artist Émile Bernard. Using blocks of type, Johns pressed the letters of van Gogh’s words into the wax. On the other side he spelled out the letter in the American Sign Language alphabet with stamps he made himself. Finally, he signed his name in the wax with his hands in sign language.

This exhibition also features a room of 20 recent works on paper, including a series of drawings and prints based on three small works Johns made early last year on Shrinky Dinks, a plastic made for children to draw on that shrinks approximately 60 percent when heated. Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated hardcover publication including a conversation with Jasper Johns and Terry Winters.

Johns has been a central figure in contemporary art since the early 1950s when he arrived in New York and became involved—over the years—with such cultural movers and shakers as Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Frank O’Hara, Robert Morris, Andy Warhol, Samuel Beckett, and Bruce Naumann His paintings—appropriating popular iconography such as the American flag, targets, numbers, and letters—quickly became icons themselves. MoMA purchased three pieces from Johns' first one-person exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958. As his career has developed Johns has added crosshatching, marks made by his body, and, more recently, the catenary curve to his collection of motifs. Such motifs constitute a very personal vernacular that Johns has introduced across his entire body of work—painting, sculpture, print, and hybrids combining elements of each. At every step of his career, Johns’ body of rich and complex work has evidenced a concern for process as well as rigorous attention to themes of popular imagery and abstraction and set the standards for American art.

Johns work has been exhibited throughout the world, at institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Kunstmuseum (Basel). Having represented the United States at the 1988 Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the Grand Prize. Johns received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

New Sculpture & Works on Paper
Jasper Johns
Through July 1, 2011
522 West 22nd Street NYC 10011

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