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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Jasper Johns

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Jasper Johns: May 15, 1930-****...United States

"To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist."
~Jasper Johns

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.

Flags

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.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063