Stopping the moment

November 29, 2021

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 “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror” is a monumental exhibition of 500 works - some of them previously unpublished from the artist’s collection - and several curators, first and foremost, Carlos Basualdo, the curator of Documenta Kassel 11 in 2002 and among those of the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.



Jasper Johns Mind/Mirror

New York, Philadelphia

Whitney Museum

Philadelphia Museum

Curated by Carlos Basualdo

Until 13/02/22

The Author

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Cesare Orler firmly believes in the equivalence of art and life and would like to turn his life into a work of art, to paraphrase D'annunzio. He has a degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts Management, which he took in Venice, and is completing the master’s degree Programme in Contemporary Art History. He manages “Cesare's Corner", a TV broadcast on OrlerTV whose aim is to disseminate Contemporary Art. He closely follows emerging Italian artists and curates exhibitions and critical texts on them. He is a keen supporter of AW ArtMag. In addition to art, he also likes cinema and drinking beer, of which he is a refined connoisseur. Perhaps of all these things he can do well only the last one.

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