Jasper Johns is one of the most influential and celebrated artists of our time. Born in Augusta, Georgia in 1930, he moved to New York City in the 1950s and began to experiment with painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Johns is best known for his iconic series of American flags, targets, numbers, and letters. His work is often associated with the Pop art movement, but his approach is more complex and layered than that label might suggest.
One of the values that is most evident in Johns’ art is his interest in perception and representation. He disrupts our understanding of familiar signs and symbols, challenging us to question how we see and interpret the world around us. His flags, for example, are not accurate depictions of the American flag. Instead, they are rendered in a muted palette of grays, with visible brushstrokes and texture that emphasize the materiality of the painting. Some flags are partially hidden behind layers of encaustic, a wax-based medium that creates a sense of depth and ambiguity. In this way, Johns suggests that our perception of the flag is not fixed or stable, but rather contingent on our individual experiences and contexts.
Another value that is central to Johns’ art is his interest in process and experimentation. He is known for his use of unusual materials and techniques, such as encaustic, collage, and relief printing. He often combines multiple media within a single work, creating complex and layered surfaces that invite close inspection. His emphasis on process is evident in his prints, which often include ghost impressions, or faint traces of previous layers that have been wiped away. In this way, Johns allows us to glimpse the history of the work, and to appreciate the labor and care that went into its creation.
Finally, Johns’ art reflects his interest in memory and the past. His work often incorporates personal and cultural references, such as notes from a diary, maps, or book pages. He also frequently uses found objects, such as rulers, stencils, or paintbrushes, which bear traces of their previous use and thus serve as a reminder of the past. His use of the American flag, for example, suggests a connection to his own biography as a veteran, as well as to the broader history of the United States. By incorporating these references into his art, Johns challenges us to reflect on the relationship between the present and the past, and to consider how our memories shape our understanding of the world.
Overall, Jasper Johns’ art is notable for its complexity and richness, as well as its deep engagement with questions of perception, process, memory, and representation. His work is among the most important contributions to American art of the 20th century, and continues to inspire and challenge artists and audiences alike.
If you are a Jasper Johns buyer, seller, or collector, and live in the Rancho Mirage area, we would like to work with you.