The National Gallery Acquires 1700 Jasper Johns Prints

by  & Robert Grunder

Jasper Johns Unique Target at The National Gallery
A Jasper Johns Prints exhibition titled Editions with Additions: Working Proofs by Jasper Johns is on display at The National Gallery, Washington, DC until April 4, 2010.

Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, selected 42 Jasper Johns from the 1,700 Jasper Johns Proofs for 300 lithographs, etchings, and screenprints that The National Gallery has acquired from the Artist. The Collection, includes almost all the memorable images associated with Jasper Johns from the postwar era — flags, targets, maps — and more recent compositions with references to works by earlier artists.

"This extraordinary body of work, which incorporate a range of media that includes graphite, pastel, ink, and watercolor, has been created and carefully annotated by Johns over four decades. It will be the largest institutional repository of works by Johns.  According the National Gallery Press Release, "Johns' proofs—including state and color trial proofs as well as working proofs—mark stages within the development of his printed images."

"It is in this context that his working proofs are best known. Part drawing and part print, the working proofs offer the additional opportunity to view Johns' motifs through the expressive lens of this combination of media, affirming the artist's comment that "an aspect always of interest to me is to develop an idea or an image and execute it in different ways to determine what its meaning could be."

The Jasper Johns Prints exhibition "is arranged chronologically, and several works are on public view for the first time. The initial section of the show features working proofs from the 1960s and 1970s to introduce several motifs that Johns continues to revisit in paintings, drawings, and sculpture as well as in prints: letters of the alphabet, targets, names of colors, and body parts."

"Works in the second section include complex compositions from the 1980's and 1990's, in which Johns introduced autobiographical references, such as an image of his shadow, family photographs, a floor plan of his grandfather's house, and works of art by others that he admires, including ceramic objects by George Ohr"

"A master in many media, Jasper Johns is a Printmaker of immense curiosity and skill."  Since 1960 when he made his first lithographs, he has added etching, screenprint and other techniques to his repertoire and has completed more than 300 print editions."

"He takes full advantage of the inherent nature of printmaking techniques to reverse and duplicate images. Johns often sets his matrices aside after an edition is completed, sometimes for years, and later reworks them for a new edition, evident from the working proofs for different versions of The Seasons."

"Among the proofs shown in the Exhibit are different versions of Jasper Johns' The Seasons. In the fourth version of the The Seasons, Jasper Johns cut apart used printing plates from past works to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle to create a new image", according to Ms. Fine.

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