Two monumental exhibitions of Jasper Johns in New York and Philadelphia
At the Whitney and the Philadelphia museum two coordinated exhibitions take stock of the great American artist
Until the 13th of February of 2022, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Philadelphia Museum in Philadelphia are celebrating one of the legends of American art, Jasper Johns, in a coordinated double exhibition. “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror” is a monumental exhibition of 500 works - some of them previously unpublished from the artist’s collection - and several curators, first and foremost, Carlos Basualdo, the curator of Documenta Kassel 11 in 2002 and among those of the Venice Biennale in 2003. Together with Robert Rauschenberg, he is the father of new dada, an art movement that is often confused with pop art. It is not uncommon to hear, in fact, that at the Venice Biennale of ‘64 pop art triumphed, but the winner was Robert Rauschenberg. Johns is the one who allowed pop art to see the light, so much so that he is the most “painter” artist of his generation. After Duchamp’s contribution, which in America had a considerable weight, the risk of seeing only ready-mades, even of the most unlikely artists, was behind the corner.
Flags and targets as a starting point to understand his art
Between abstract expressionism, with its distinct gestural expressiveness, and pop art, where the artist’s hand is hidden behind a painting that simulates, and in some cases uses automatic machines, lies the contribution of Jasper Johns. He is the link between these two movements because he has never abandoned painting, while managing to give it a rational logic. On the one hand, the exhibition emphasizes his innate ability to move from one medium to another, using painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking and set design; on the other hand, it highlights the artist’s two most iconic cycles, Target and Flag.
Even today, being 91 years old, his painting stands as an example
Johns allowed a return to painting, or rather, prevented the next generation from abandoning it completely. The choice of such popular and immediately understandable subjects as the American flag and the target, later taken up by several artists, is just the starting point to lead the viewer, through the use of sophisticated techniques such as encaustic painting, beyond the simple image. “I am concerned with a thing’s not being what it was, with its becoming something other than what it is, with any moment in which one identifies a thing precisely and with the slipping away of that moment. We find ourselves before a painter who represents reality, but at the same time denies it, proposing to enter with him to visit another space, that of painting. A place in which Jasper Johns still is, at the age of 91, an example to follow.