Jasper Johns, Jr. (born May
15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, United
States) is an American contemporary artist who works
primarily in painting and printmaking.
He is represented by the
Matthew Marks Gallery
Johns spent his early life in Allendale, South Carolina with his paternal grandparents after his parents
marriage failed. He then spent a year living with his mother
in Columbia, South
Carolina and thereafter he spent several years living with
his aunt Gladys in Lake Murray, South Carolina, twenty-two miles
from Columbia. He completed high school in Sumter, South
Carolina, where he once again lived with his mother.
Recounting this period in his life, he says, "In the place where I
was a child, there were no artists and there was no art, so I
really didn't know what that meant. I think I thought it meant that
I would be in a situation different than the one that I was in." He
began drawing when he was three and has continued doing art ever
studied at the University of South Carolina from 1947 to 1948, a total of three
semesters. He then moved to New York City and studied briefly at the Parsons School
of Design in 1949.
While in New York, Johns met
, with whom
he had a relationship, as well as Merce
and John Cage
together they explored the contemporary art scene, and began
developing their ideas on art. In 1963, Johns and Cage founded
Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, now known as Foundation for Contemporary
in New York City. In 1952 and 1953 he was stationed in Sendai, Japan during the
In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli
discovered Johns while visiting Rauschenberg
's studio. Castelli gave him
his first solo show. It was here that Alfred Barr, the founding director of New York's
Modern Art, purchased four works from his
currently lives in Sharon, Connecticut and the Island of Saint Martin.
He is best known for his painting Flag
(1954-55), which he painted after having a dream of the American flag
. His work is often
described as a Neo-Dadaist
, as opposed to
, even though his subject matter
often includes images and objects from popular culture. Still, many
compilations on pop art include Jasper Johns as a pop artist
because of his artistic use of classical iconography.
Early works were composed using simple schema such as flags, maps,
targets, letters and numbers. Johns' treatment of the surface is
often lush and painterly; he is famous for incorporating such media
and plaster relief in his
paintings. Johns played with and presented opposites,
, and ironies, much
like Marcel Duchamp
associated with the Dada
movement). Johns also
with similar motifs.
Johns' breakthrough move, which was to inform much later work by
others, was to appropriate popular iconography for painting, thus
allowing a set of familiar associations to answer the need for
subject. Though the Abstract
disdained subject matter, it could be argued
that in the end, they had simply changed subjects. Johns
neutralized the subject, so that something like a pure painted
surface could declare itself. For twenty years after Johns painted
, the surface could suffice - for example, in Andy Warhol
's silkscreens, or in Robert Irwin
's illuminated ambient
figures like Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
ascribed to the
concept of a macho "artist hero", and their paintings are indexical
in that they stand effectively as a
signature on canvas. In contrast, Neo-Dadaists
like Johns and Rauschenberg
seemed preoccupied with a
lessening of the reliance of their art on indexical qualities,
seeking instead to create meaning solely through the use of
. Some have interpreted
this as a rejection of the hallowed individualism of the Abstract
Expressionists. Their works also imply symbols existing outside of
any referential context. Johns' Flag
, for instance, is
primarily a visual object, divorced from its symbolic connotations
and reduced to something in-itself.
In spring 2008, a ten-year retrospective of Johns' drawings was
mounted at New York City's Matthew
Collection and Acquisition
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought Johns' White
While the Met would not disclose how much was
paid, "experts estimate [the painting's] value at more than $20
million." In 2006, private collectors Anne and Kenneth Griffin
(founder of the Chicago-based hedge fund
Citadel Investment Group
bought Johns' False Start
for $80 million, making it the
most expensive painting by a living artist.
Gallery of Art acquired about 1,700 of Johns' proofs in
This made the Gallery home to the largest number of
Johns' works held by a single institution. The exhibition showed
works from many points in Johns' career, including recent proofs of
Since the 1980s, Johns produce paintings at four to five a year,
sometimes not at all during a year. His large scale paintings are
much favored by collectors and due to their rarity, it is known
that Johns' works are extremely difficult to acquire.
Skate’s Art Market Research (Skate Press, Ltd.), a New York based
advisory firm servicing private and institutional investors in the
art market, has ranked Jasper Johns as the 30th most valuable
artist. The firm’s index of the 1,000 most valuable works of art
sold at auction - Skate’s Top 1000 - contains 7 works by
- Flag (1954-55)
- White Flag (1955)
- Target with Plaster Casts (1955)
- False Start (1959)
- Three Flags (1958)
- Coathanger (1960)
- Painting With Two Balls (1960)
- Painted Bronze (1960)
- Device (1962-3)
- Periscope (Hart Crane) (1963)
- The Critic Sees (1964)
- Study for Skin (1962)
- Figure Five (1963-64)
- Voice (1967)
- Skull (1973)
- Tantric Detail (1980)
- Seasons (1986)
- Numbers in Color(1958-59)
Appearance in popular culture
In 1999, Jasper Johns guest-starred in the animated television
series The Simpsons
himself. In the episode "Mom and Pop
", Homer Simpson
becomes an artist, and Johns attends one of his exhibitions. Johns
is portrayed as a kleptomaniac
stealing food items, lightbulbs, a motorboat, and a painting that
is working on.
- Debra Pearlman. Where Is Jasper Johns? (Adventures
in Art), Prestel Publishing, 2006.
- Jeffrey Weiss. Jasper Johns: An Allegory of
Painting, 1955-1965, Yale University Press,
- Fred Orton. Figuring Jasper Johns,
Reaktion Books, 1994.
- Roberta Bernstein, Lilian Tone, Jasper Johns, and Kirk
Varnedoe. Jasper Johns: A Retrospective, The Museum of
Modern Art, 2006.
- Max Kozloff. Jasper Johns, Abrams, 1972. (out of
- Michael Crichton. Jasper Johns, Whitney/Abrams, 1977
(out of print).
- Roberta Bernstein. Jasper Johns' Paintings and Sculptures,
1954–1974: "The Changing Focus of the Eye.". Ann Arbor: UMI
Research Press, 1985.
- David Shapiro. Jasper Johns Drawings 1954-1984. Abrams
1984 (out of print).
- Riva Castleman. Japser Johns a print retrospetive. The
Museum of Modern Art 1986.
- Calvin Tomkins. Off the Wall: Robert Rauchenberg and the
Artworld of our time. Doubleday. 1980.
- Harold Rosenberg. "Jasper Johns: Things the Mind Already
Knows,". Vogue, 1964.
- Eric Fretz. "A Semiotics of the F(l)ag" Gaytext 3
(October 1983), 23-39.
- Rosalind E. Krauss and Christopher Knight. “Split
decisions: Jasper Johns in retrospect” Artforum,