May 15, 1930-****...United States
"To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the
desire to be a good artist."
One of the founders of Pop art (as well as Minimalism) was the artist from
Allendale, South Carolina, the legend, Jasper Johns. All his life he wanted to be an artist. He
had no idea what it was to be an artist, but he liked the idea of getting out and doing something different from the environment
he was in. “I often find that having an idea in my head prevents me from doing something else. Working
is therefore a way of getting rid of an idea.” After high school he went into the Army (stationed in Japan),
studied for a short time at the University of South Carolina before venturing off to New York in 1952. This is where he and
Robert Rauchenburg began to lay the foundation for Pop Art. After a visit to see Marcel
Duchamp’s “readymades” in Philadelphia, he was inspired to create everyday images. "I
tend to like things that already exist." His primary subjects became flags, targets, map, numbers, and the alphabet. One of my favorites of these works is his Flags. This work is unique becaise it uses the physical stress of colors that force the viewer to see what the artist wants.
The green, orange and black stress the eye, so if you stare at the white dot of the top flag, then look at the black dot of
the bottow one, you'll see red, white, and blue even though ther is no color there. "There may or may
not be an idea, and the meaning may just be that the painting exists." Good art is not about money, however, students
are often shocked with the price of great art by great artists. In 2005, a small Flag painting/collage
by Johns sold for $4.5 million. A drawing, 0 through 9, broke records for an artwork on
paper, with a $10.9 million price-tag.
1968. Lithograph. 35 X 26 inches. Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.
Johns is truly at his best when he is less specific with an idea. This
is a case where less is more. His newer works are a little more complicated and all over the place in terms of organization.
"I don't know how to organize thoughts. I don't know how to have thoughts." But who am I to critique
Jasper Johns? "Everyone is of course free to interpret the work in his own way. I think seeing a picture
is one thing and interpreting it is another." His work was included in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art
and his career exploded into international fame.
Johns was also very successful with his sculptures that also reflected
on the everyday item. Paint brushes, light bulbs, and beer cans became the great muses of Johns. Over the years he was always
open to altering his style and experimenting with new ideas. “Most of the power of painting comes
through the manipulation of space... but I don't understand that.” Because of his ability to make the everyday
unique, Johns is considered by many the greatest artist living today. He currently creates a painting or two a year, as well
as a few drawings. Jasper Johns lives and works in Stony Point, New York.