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Jasper Johns lithographs An exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York Author Johns, Jasper, Date 1970 Publisher The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition URL
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Jasper Johns lithographs An exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York Author Johns, Jasper, Date 1970 Publisher The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition URL The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition history from our founding in 1929 to the present is available online. It includes exhibition catalogues, primary documents, installation views, and an index of participating artists. MoMA 2017 The Museum of Modern Art JASPER JOHNS LITHOGRAPHS AN EXHIBITION ORGANIZED BY THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK The problems are solved, not by made the lithographs False Start giving new information, but by (cat. 11 and 14) and Painting with arranging what we have always Two Balls (cat. 8 and 10), he was known. Ludwig Wittgenstein, already far into this area of un Philosophical Investigations stable relationships. False Start incorporates the jabbing brush The thematic and compositional strokes with an intellectual game development of Jasper Johns's of naming colors what they are lithographs parallels his painting not. The eleven stones necessary and sculpture in image, rather to convey this cacophony of am than in time. The paintings that biguity were more than Johns precede his first lithographs by ever attempted again. Both False six years indicate an exploration Start and Painting with Two Balls fundamental to any statement he are closer transcriptions of his would articulate in any other paintings than were the earlier medium. Philosophically, Johns prints. Painting with Two Balls, demanded increasingly more, besides graphically demonstrat both from himself and from the ing the tension of a flat plane rent viewer. In retrospect, his first by the introduction of solid forms, KMT 9Ml 96 WU0 IflTI*- prints were crucial to this quest; introduced into his prints two im pmtt «i , and when he drew his first litho tek late *to wm portant elements: bands of red, tto ma « * kuur graphs in 1960, he began the ex yellow, and blue (not yet fully to rmm* a to ploration anew. developed into symbols) and a to» 'tt to to ) ftoww He again chose two-dimension crayon delineation that is selfsustaining. A proof of the crayon al, simply patterned, and wellremembered objects: numbers, drawing for this print in white ink mmfe to to a * to»iu» t targets, and flags. As in his paint on black paper (a method that V-O ' ing, he depended on the memories eventually offered variations for such objects activated to energize other prints) indicates the begin 'A. the spectator's new awareness. In ning of a tendency to depart from 6» i order to maintain a flattened pic the complication of the total sur ture plane within the prints, face. The crayon strokes provide Johns introduced a laborious lin a chiaroscuro effect that later, ear structure that evokes the lay in the rendering of Ale Cans (cat. *V% ers of encaustic and newsprint of 23) in 1964, tends io show concrete his paintings of the 1950s. An ef substance. fort to emulate the density of Redon's black lithographic crayon of 1960 brought new attention to The Painted Bronze sculpture seems apparent, particularly in Johns's work. The simple experi Target (cat. 1). Johns at this time ential conclusion that he was pre was attacking his paintings with senting reproductions of two ale a brilliant brushwork that oc cans as art overlooked entirely casionally crept into the develop the precedent for such a confron ment of his prints. An attempt to tation in his own work. As had introduce a brushed-on wash into been the case earlier, the com areas of Target was discarded. monness of the objects induced a The progression of work on the blind reaction, while inherent in Flags, especially as it remains the piece itself were Johns's auto visible in proofs and states, was graphic handling of the surface almost a technical regression. and the alteration of form that Flag I (cat. 5) is pure tusche ap characterized his two-dimension plied with a brush, as directly as al works. Both absence and pres in his paintings and drawings. In ence are implied in the different subsequent states, crayon en physical states of the cans (in the traps the fluid lines; the gray sculpture, one can has been punc y- fi Flag III (cat. 7) represents a flat tured). The lithograph is a por MSB tened arrangement so enmeshed trayal of the object from which that it totally cancels out our this lesson of opposites has been visual memory. learned an illusion of a prior il Johns's first lithograph was a lusion, still provocative of further scale of numbers above a zero deception. The print is now called % wf. / ; (plate 1 in the 0-9 portfolios). Al Ale Cans and was once named though this print was not pub Beer Cans; it was never titled lished until 1963, it precedes the Painted Bronze. (A) having far more complex and larger painted a picture gives it the title image of the superimposed num Flag. (B) having made a sculp bers in 0 through 9 (cat. 4). The ture gives it the title Painted f* rvv. sequential development of the Bronze. (A) referring to (B)'s digits, built from line alone, work says beer when to be in char catches the eye in a weblike trap. acter he would say ale (John The sensuosity of the curved lines Cage, Jasper Johns: Stories and further confuses the mind so that Ideas. Jasper Johns New York, measuring, so there is always ings as the means by which he at the cognitive game of counting Jewish Museum, 1964.) something else that Johns can do tempted to reconcile lithography the numbers is fraught with The crayon-drawn stone of Ale with his objects: Take an object. with the complex constructed doubts. The element of time is Cans again demonstrates an in Do something to it. Do something paintings of the 1960s. Pinion was also introduced here time that tention to model the surface. In else to it (Jasper Johns, a composition rescued and given progresses or regresses as the this case, perspective is alluded Sketchbook Notes, quoted in life with a photographed portion numbers grow larger or smaller. to, although in the final print Art and Literature Spring 1965). of his painting Eddingsville. Pas The emotional content of much of the drawing is obliterated The cover of this checklist, a spec sage (cat. 44), on the other hand, Johns's themes becomes more by an almost solid black back trum printing of the black-andwhite Hatteras, introduces a new in jeopardy many of the classical was a reconstruction that placed important as they replay them ground. As a last step, Johns drew selves. The 1960 Coat Hanger a line around the entire composi problem, for the colors red, yel tenets of printmaking. The levels (cat. 3), another familiar object tion, the same means he used in low, and blue uncomfortably over of illusion in this composition, de elevated to an icon, has an emo the illusionistic Pinion to recall lap the confines of the spaces so rived from black-and-white photo tional value which it retains in the eye to the flatness of the real named. Again, the colors and graphs of a color painting, flatcolor panels, crayon outlines, and different guises in later works. In surface. what we call them are not the its bare, unaltered state, it is Pinion, Hatteras (cat. 17), Skin same. brushed-on tusche, rest precari emptiness. The tension of the thin with O'Hara Poem (cat. 27), and Originally Pinion, like Skin with ously on the paper. The photo wire against the densely packed Hand (cat. 18) were begun in O'Hara Poem, was meant to have graphed portions are dead, while ground introduces an element of All made use of body imprints. a poem printed on the lower part the truly lithographic areas have frustration. Later, it is unbent and Hatteras relates closely to a of its composition. The late Frank the characteristic life referred to hooked onto objects that set up painting of the same year, Peri O'Hara, poet and a curator at The by print lovers. The opposition of paradoxes. The wire links objects scope (Hart Crane), executed in Museum of Modern Art, was an techniques creates an almost in with unseen presence in Pinion blacks and grays but still signal admired friend of many artists. tolerable sense of strain. (cat. 29), and eating utensils with ing red, yellow, and blue. The ex Ultimately, only Skin was en Watchman (cat. 49) is another breath in Voice (cat. 46). tended hand has described an arc, hanced by his poem, and the 1963 composition dealing with the post- Another of the developments in adding the measurement of stone for Pinion was overprinted theme of change. It too is m his paintings that Johns was to in elapsed time to that of the num with another stone and a photo after a painting-construction, but troduce into his printmaking was bered scale of inches at the bot graphic plate. Johns used a photo in this case, instead of photo incongruity. In 1962, when he tom. As the infinite is implicit in graphed section from his paint graphing the assembled objects 49 (leg and chair), Johns has re placed them with a white sil houette. His sketchbook note that the watchman falls 'into' the trap of looking, and leaves his job and takes away no informa tion certainly may serve as a warning to one who studies this work. Between the execution of Pas sage and Watchman, Johns worked on his largest stone up to that time, Voice (cat. 46). It has photographed elements derived from the painted composition of the same title a spoon and fork on a wire but the component that overpowers the eye is the large, fluid spume that-covers the entire area. It is a tour-de-force of litho graphic technique, using an elu sive wash to evoke the abstract concepts of breath, sound, saliva, throat, voice. Johns had had some bitter experiences with this tech nique. In 1962 he had attempted a sequential table of letters, Alpha bets (cat. 15), but the stone would not retain the image. Recent Still Life (cat. 33), a poster for an exhi bition at the Rhode Island School of Design, had a wash back ground, and the first stone cracked before the edition was printed. Two other compositions with light bulbs, of 1966 and 1970, again make use of wash. Both are remi niscences of Johns's sculptures, and the 1966 print was even proofed in a bronze ink. The soft, carefully balanced fluidity of the later print is pinned down by a rubber-stamp insert of the state ment about watts and volts com monly printed on light bulbs. The overall balance of wash, particularly where it is used to describe form, is most beautifully apparent in the Two Maps (cat. 36 and 38) lithographs. In these prints, the puddling of the liquid as it defines the States of the Union, especially in the upper map, is ingeniously controlled. Proofs for the Maps show the care Johns exercised in manipulating his brush. A discarded crayondrawn stone that might have over printed the maps was a superflu- 1 ous addition. By doubling the maps, Johns redistributed our concentration on minutiae. Progression of small forms, bearers of the kind of aesthetic in formation that Johns presents, began with the alphabet se quences. According to Johns, even the numbers with all their permutations developed from an alphabetical table that he saw quite early in his artistic career. The measured changes in position are veiled by the embroidering brushwork he carries over each letter form. In the unpublished 1962 version of Alphabets, this is accomplished by black ink alone. The stencil-patterned letters drift in and out of focus as if printed on a curtain blown by the wind, and yet the tautness of the unvarying measured rectangles holds the surface flat and unyielding. Gray Alphabets (cat. 66) of 1968, much larger than any of Johns's pre vious or subsequent prints, is printed in four shades of gray. By increasing the size of the tables, the linear movement of the pattern becomes more visible. Much of the subtlety now lies in the muted grays. The subject of alphabets holds the position of a favorite child in Johns's artistic vocabulary. The 729 different formal arrange ments (the number of rectangles in the table) suggest infinite pos sibilities for interpretations. Numbers, on the other hand, have intrinsic implications (one what?). This aspect of numbers is exploited in the large-scale Numerals (cat ) of , monuments in print to our passive acceptance of symbols. Figure 7 (cat. 63), with its oblique refer ence to Duchamp, confounds the sense of the abstract that num bers purportedly convey. In choosing this image to illustrate the meaning of a cancellation proof, Johns presents us with an other philosophical question: what is void? JASPER JOHNS began his printmaking career at Universal Li mited Art Editions. This work shop was begun in the Long Is land home of the artist Maurice Grosman and his wife Tatyana. Under the latter's direction, Uni versal had published prints by Fritz Glarner, Grace Hartigan, and Larry Rivers before Johns was invited there in Mrs. Grosman had admired his paint ings in the exhibition Sixteen Americans at The Museum of Modern Art and invited him to visit the workshop. During his visit, it was decided to leave some small stones with him to work on at his studio. They eventually car ried the images of Target and 0 for the portfolio 0-9. (That Johns immediately envisioned a port folio delighted Mrs. Grosman, who seems to thrive, spiritually and intellectually, on their com plex production.) A larger stone, not quite so tempting, was brought back to the Long Island studio, where its surface was soon transformed into Coat Hanger. After eight years in the small garage-workshop, which had been modernized and embel lished but not noticeably expand ed during that time, Johns was in vited by Kenneth Tyler to make lithographs at his workshop in Los Angeles, Gemini G.E.L. Un like Mrs. Grosman, who when she started her workshop lacked technical skills, although she had judgment and persistence, Ken Tyler was already a practicing artist and master lithographer when he opened Gemini in Through years of practice, he had become aware of the many prob lems connected with lithography and wanted to improve the tech nical methods of printing. He also recognized that the future of printmaking as an art rather than a craft lay in the hands of Ameri- 69 M ca's foremost painters and sculp tors. Johns began his work at Gemi ni, as he had his printmaking in 1960, with a 0-through-9 series, this time in the form of single numerals. After the stones and plates had been drawn using al most the complete gamut of his graphic skills, they were printed in black and warm grays. Having discovered while working on Pin ion how to ink a stone in order to achieve the effect of a rainbow, Johns decided this was something else to do to Numerals. In lith ography, it is necessary to roll ink onto the stone many times for one print, and to achieve the effect he sought, several colors on the same ink roller had to be carefully transferred to the stone. After considerable technical experi mentation, Color Numerals came into being. A few of the proofs of Color Numerals show the meta morphosis of these signs into agents for a systematic transfor mation of our color sense. Addi tions jn white, first tried out in white paint on color proofs, pro vide each image with stabilizing elements. In Figure 7 (cat. 64), the artist's hand laid on the stone in a sort of benediction reminds the viewer that there is only sur face here. Since 1960, 130 of Johns's prints have been published; 91 of these have been lithographs. Although this would not be considered a prodigious production for a tenyear period, it has been an excep tionally influential one. In the field of print connoisseurship, Johns's have been among the first lithographs by an American to have achieved considerable international renown. His was certainly the most prophetic work during the early period of the revival of lithography in America. Now that we can see in trial, expe rimental, work, and artist's proofs the concentrated devotion he has given to the medium, we no longer wonder at the pivotal role that Jasper Johns has played in contemporary American printmaking. Riva Castleman! hors LITHOGRAPHY (WRITING ON STONE) has been drawn. (Areas that must remain uninked are kept wet to forestall the natural inclination of the stone or plate to accept grease/ink.) After the stone or plate has been dampened and ink rolled onto it, damp or dry on the stone or plate, the printer will make proofs, experimental proofs, and/or progressive proofs those prints that the artist retains, which are identical to the pub lished edition. H.C. ( com Lithography is based on the mutu the last term generally being merce) may appear on prints al antipathy between grease and used to describe proofs that show identical to the edition which are water. The image may be drawn the progress of printing each retained by the publisher, or on with a grease-based crayon, pen successive color. small editions of prints never is Bon cil, and/or liquid (tusche) on Ba paper is placed over the stone or An edition is that number of sued for sale. a tirer (ap varian limestone, zinc, or special plate and both are run through a prints authorized by the artist proved for printing) appears on ly treated aluminum plates, or it may be transferred to stone or flat-bed press under considerable pressure. Normally, one stone or and publisher; each print is usual ly designated by its number with only one proof, the one to which the printer must make the entire plate by drawing on a special plate is used for each color, excep in the total edition, e.g., 1/12 indi edition conform After the last paper. In all cases, the stone or tional care being taken to place cates the first print among twelve print of the edition has been plate will not retain the image the paper exactly in the same po to be pulled. In most cases, the pulled, the stone or plate is de unless its surface structure has sition on each subsequent stone or edition is limited by the ability of faced)! a cancellation proof may been changed by light etching plate (registration). As an artist the stones or plates to retain a uni be printed to record this fact. with gum and acid so that it will changes, embellishes, or simply form image. The term artist's accept ink only where the image continues to build his composition proof is usually reserved for CHECKLIST OF THE EXHIBITION Unless otherwise noted, the pub lished lithographs are gifts to The Museum of Modern Art from Mr. and Mrs. Armand P. Bartos or from The Celeste and Armand Bartos Foundation. With the ex ception of Alphabets (cat. 15), all works shown are published or proofs for published prints. All work from Universal Limited Art Editions (cat. 1-55, 68-70) carries the blind stamp ULAE. All work from Gemini G.E.L. (cat ) carries the blind stamps and. Dimensions given are of the printed image, height pre ceding width. Numbers in paren theses indicate the number within the total edition. *denotes an illustration. printed in gray, 18 3/8 X 33 X 23 3/16 (experimental 5/8 (artist's proof 1/2). Col proof 1/2). Collection the lection artist, New York : correction for 0-9 port 59. Figure 5 from the series Nu folio Lithograph, 3 3/16 merals Lithograph, Target Lithograph, X 2 1/2 (H.C. 3/3). Collec printed in color, 27 3/4 X /16 X 12 3/16 (1/30). tion Tatyana Grosman, West 9/16 (29/70). The Museum Target Lithograph Islip, Long Island, New of Modern Art, New York, with ink wash, 12 5/16 X 12 York. John B. Turner Fund. 3/4 (artist's proof). Col *23. Ale Cans Lithograph, 60. Figure 5 from the series lection Tatyana Grosman, printed in color, 14 1/4 X 11 Colored Numerals West Islip, Long Island, New 3/16 (1/31). Lithograph, printed in color, York. 24. Ale Cans Lithograph, with white-paint additions, Coat Hanger I Litho printed in color, with added 28 3/4 X 22 5/8 (working graph, 25 9/16 X 21 1/16 collage, crayon, ink, and proof). Collection the artist, (1/35). paint, 143/16 X 113/16 . Col New York. * 4. 0 through Litho lection Figure 5 from the
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