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Royal Academy of Arts

Hardcover, 11 x 11.75 in. / 240 pgs / 200 color.

Pub Date

D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: FALL 2017 p. 11   

ISBN 9781910350683 TRADE
List Price: $65.00 CDN $87.00

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London, UK
Royal Academy of Arts, 09/23/17–12/10/17

Los Angeles, CA
The Broad, 01/18–04/18

"I've always been attracted to poetry… One finds harmony in poetry, but no systematic order. I wish I could say the same of painting."
—Jasper Johns, 1984


"A painting is an object as well as an image; very few artists have made quite such a point of this fact. At the Royal Academy, there is the most forceful sense of Johns trying to get as much into – and out of – a picture as he can, pressing his face, hands and torso into the painting, cutting the canvas in two, showing its back, hanging a loop of string from one side to the other that sheds a shadow line across the surface. The word “No” emits bodily from one canvas, dangling on a wire, leaving a No-shaped wound in the paint. Knives and forks dig and delve. The thick encaustic surface of another canvas bears savage tooth marks. It’s called Painting Bitten By a Man."
—Laura Cumming, The Guardian

"He paints objects that we think we know – flags, targets, light bulbs, numerals, maps – because familiarity breeds indifference, and John’s enterprise is to shake us out of that indifference, to cleanse us of that jaded way of looking. What exactly is it to know a thing, to wrest meaning and significance from an everyday object? How do you pass from inert contemplation to awe-struck regard? What is it that raises up an everyday object until it is transformed into a symbol that binds us and unites us – such as the American flag?"
—MIchael Glover, The Independent

"His paintings are characterised by timelessness and stasis. Sometimes, like stop signs on a road, they even seem to resist the viewer, blocking our line of sight, and challenging our preconception that a picture must offer a window onto a world."
Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph


A major overview of the American Pop artist Jasper Johns from the Royal Academy of Arts
  • Jasper Johns (b. 1930 Augusta GA; lives in Sharon CT) is one of the world's most important living and influential American artists.
  • Johns is best known for his paintings of flags, targets, maps, letters and numbers. He laid the groundwork for Pop Art and Minimalism.
  • He is also known for his personal relationships with Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage.
  • The book covers all aspects of his art: 200 works including sculpture, drawings, and prints.
  • Well-priced at $65.00 for a generous 11 x 11 3/4 inch square hardcover with more than 200 color reproductions
  • Ties-in with the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at MoMA and the Walker Art Center and MCA Chicago Merce Cunningham exhibitions.
  • Yale just released Johns Catalogue Raisonne (April 2017) at $1500 (authored by Roberta Bernstein, a contributor to the RA Johns catalog).
  • Roberta Bernstein is a professor at the University of Albany, New York (SUNY).
  • Morgan Meis is NY based and the founder of Flux Factory as well as a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, n+1, The Believer and Harper's Magazine.
  • Robert Storr was until recently the Dean of the Yale Art School. Prior to that he was senior curator at MoMA where he authored, among other important catalogs, the bestselling Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting.
  • WEST COAST INTEREST: Exhibition travels to The Broad in Los Angeles Winter 2018



Jasper Johns

Text by Roberta Bernstein, Edith Devaney, Hiroko Ikegami, Morgan Meis, Robert Storr.

Jasper Johns

The art of Jasper Johns has affected nearly every artistic movement from the 1950s to the present

Jasper Johns is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and has remained central to American art since his arrival in New York in the 1950s. With his then partner Robert Rauschenberg, Johns helped to establish a decisive new direction in the art world, termed “Neo-Dada” at the time. Johns’ striking use of popular iconography, “things the mind already knows,” as he put it (flags, numbers, maps), made the familiar unfamiliar—and made a colossal impact in the art world, becoming a touchstone for Pop, minimalist and conceptual art.

This handsomely illustrated book brings together Johns’ paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. From his innovations in sculpture to his use of collage in paintings, it gives focus to different chapters of Johns’ career and examines the international significance of his work. Featuring contributions from a range of experts, this volume promises to explore the depth and breadth of Johns’ oeuvre, made over more than half a century.

Jasper Johns (born 1930) made his major breakthrough as a painter in the mid-1950s when he started using iconic, popular images in his paintings—an explosive move at a moment when advanced painting was understood to be exclusively abstract. Johns’ midcentury paintings’ lush, painterly surfaces resemble those of Abstract Expressionism, but Johns arrived at them through slow, labor-intensive processes and mediums such as encaustic. Throughout his 60-year career Johns has worked with many different mediums and techniques, using the restlessness of his own process to explore the interplay of materials, meaning and representation in art.

Jasper Johns, 'Flag', 1958. Encaustic on canvas Wildenstein Plattner Institute. Reproduced from Jasper Johns (Royal Academy of Arts, 2017).


The Telegraph

Alastair Sooke

Johns’s enigmatic and epigrammatic work irradiated self-belief, and announced, in clarion terms, that the dominance of abstraction was over, kaput, defunct. He had discovered a clever way of reintroducing reality into the realm of fine art.

Apollo Magazine

Matthew Holman

His work speaks to the sense that truth is never certain or static, especially for things like nationhood.... Johns introduces these complicated ideas in a self-assured yet vernacular style unmatched by any of the American avant-gardists working in the latter half of the 20th century.

Wall Street Journal

Peter Plagens

The formidable catalog for the formidable exhibition...

New York Review of Books

Jason Farago

...the enormous new catalogue raisonee of Jasper Johns, a five-volume monument to the most inscrutable figure in modern American art.

Jasper Johns

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Excerpt from the essay, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” by Robert Storr

No living American artist has both fascinated and frustrated his public longer or more deeply than Jasper Johns. The perplexity he induces in his own country has resulted in his becoming something of a cult figure. That status is paradoxical, insofar as cults tend to be small and insular while the familiarity of Johns’s signature images and tropes has never ceased to grow in the six decades since his debut at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958. From that point until Castelli’s death in 1999, the widening reach and singular tenacity of Johns’s hold on the imagination of the American public as well as his institutional and art-world pre-eminence were owed in no small degree to his mentor’s promotional genius.

To date, Johns’s stature abroad hasn’t consistently matched his stature at home. This has been so particularly since the turn
of the second millennium, and this show will be the first major comprehensive survey of his work in Europe since 1997 and the first in the UK since 1978. Reasons for this discrepancy are several. They include the ambivalent and hence easily misunderstood ‘nationalism’ of his iconography – American flags and maps of the 48 contiguous states first and foremost – and, in the eyes of critics such as Pierre Restany, who in the late 1950s launched Nouveau Réalisme in competition with New York School Neo-Dada and
Pop, an identifiably American nostalgia. Nevertheless, Johns was included in the 1958 ‘XXIX Venice Biennale’ – his first appearance in Europe – and during his early years exhibited at the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris and at the Paris gallery of Castelli’s first wife and business partner, Ileana Sonnabend. From then on he was well collected by both individuals and museums abroad.

A case in point is the Museum Ludwig in Cologne,
which houses the trove of Pop Art assembled by the German ‘Pralinemeister’ and patron Peter Ludwig. It includes Johns’s
”Flag on Orange Field” (1957), “Edingsville” (1965), “Map (Based on Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Air Ocean World)” (1967–71) and “Untitled” (1972), though the fact that Johns’s works are rhetorically associated with Pop and clumped together in galleries with
those of Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann and others better suited to the Pop label raises profound problems of classification and interpretation. The Kunstmuseum Basel also acquired considerable holdings of Johns’s œuvre, notably prints, thanks largely to Christian Geelhaar, one of whose early exhibitions as curator in 1979 was devoted to the artist’s working proofs.

Johns’s interest in the Renaissance master Matthias Grünewald’s “Isenheim Altarpiece,” located in the French city of Colmar just across the border from Basel, dates to his project with Geelhaar. So do the tracery inscriptions in his own paintings and drawings of figures from the altarpiece, for example “Perilous Night” (1981), whose title cross-references that of composer John Cage’s most anguished and expressionistic score with images of excruciating death and miraculous transfiguration from Grünewald’s polyptych. Inflected also by the death of thousands of gay men during the onset of the AIDS plague are Johns’s three “Tantric Details” (1980–81), a meditation on Eros and Thanatos which for all its explicit iconography – a skull and an erect but truncated phallus and scrotum – remains profoundly enigmatic.

Meanwhile in Japan, where Johns sojourned from April
to July in 1964, the taste for Johns’s work developed among artists he met, and, having been whetted, spread to collectors and institutions. During his time there he produced “Watchman,” “Souvenir” and “Souvenir 2” plus drawings such as “Untitled (Cut, Tear, Scrape, Erase)” and “No” – though none of these remains in Japan.

Johns’s complex renown in his native country derives in appreciable measure from the mystique that has grown around the man himself. That, in turn, can be ascribed to the enigmatic persona he has always presented to many of his intimates and has cultivated in wider circles. His dry, daunting wit accounts for much of this effect, as do other tactics for remaining aloof and preserving confidentiality. Responses to and reactions against the artist’s diffidence vary widely, from total infatuation among those enthralled by impenetrable mysteries, to impatience and hostility among those who suppose that artists owe it to their audience
to ‘come clean’ and ‘tell all.’ The craving for ineffable truth and the worship of the oracles of such truth have been constants within Romanticism, Symbolism and other metaphysical schools of thought and aesthetics. Such cravings will never be satisfied by Johns’s work, nor has the artist ever taken it upon himself to gratify them. Quite the contrary: from the outset he has been at pains to thwart or eschew them, the title and stated premise of this exhibition being, to that extent, the perfect rhetorical foil for the artist’s habitual elusiveness and insatiable doubt.

Neither will he satisfy the expectation that artists demonstrate an exemplary capacity for introspection and self-expression, a belief belonging generally to the past but which
was especially strong in the mid-twentieth century among the American Abstract Expressionists who dominated New York when Johns first appeared on the scene in 1948. Postwar celebrity culture only exacerbated matters by convincing people that artists whose work is well known should themselves be well known. Hollywood-style fame was suddenly conferred on previously obscure and, as such, relatively protected practitioners of other art forms. Famous for well over half a century, Johns has shown prudent resistance to the notoriety for which Warhol clamored – although Warhol too hid behind a public persona.

Arguably, though, it is not so much that Johns wishes to
be left alone, Greta Garbo-style, but simply that he is alone. For despite close and longstanding friendships, he may be among
the most solitary, and often saturnine, artists alive. Wounded
in love both as a child by the break-up of his immediate family
and during his adult life, in particular by his rupture with Robert Rauschenberg in the early 1960s, he has sublimated his suffering and structured his existence around what he does by himself:
his art. Even with others in a busy print studio, he works alone, although appreciation of the quiet fellowship of assistants and master printers may be among his reasons for devoting so much of his time to the graphic media he has mastered and innovated.

Still, Johns manages to be elegantly, entertainingly social when the occasion arises as well as remarkably solicitous of those he trusts, which may be why betrayal by members of his inner circle – for example the former studio assistant who stole drawings from him in recent years, and the rebellion of a street kid he cared for during the 1970s – has caused such hurt. That said, to whatever extent emotional traumas may have prompted or may imbue certain works, these do not provide the ‘missing links’ to understanding the artist’s motivations, much less his achievement overall.



Six Decades of Jasper Johns at the Broad

Six Decades of Jasper Johns at the Broad

Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth opens February 10 at the Broad museum in Los Angeles, and we are delighted to recommend the exquisitely produced, 262-page, linen-bound exhibition catalog, complete with tipped-on front and back cover panels.
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