Jasper Johns (b. 1930) is widely accepted as one of the most significant and influential artists to emerge in America in the post-war period. Beginning his career in New York at a time when the modern art scene was dominated by the formidable paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, Johns forged a unique artistic path that echoed the painterly qualities of his contemporaries whilst working with materials and themes in a manner that questioned the very nature of art.
Working in a social and artistic environment that included such major avant-garde figures as Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), the dancer and choreographer, Merce Cunningham (1919–2009), and the composer, John Cage (1912–1992), Johns was at the heart of a generation of American artists that helped to shape twentieth-century art, paving the way for many of the major movements – from Pop Art to Conceptualism – that followed.
This richly illustrated survey spans the artist's prolific career from the early Flag and Target paintings – which were central to establishing his reputation as a major young artist in the mid 1950s, and have since become icons of twentieth century art – to the compelling compositions of the recent 'Catenary' series - works that testify to Johns's continuing artistic ambition at the start of the twenty first century. As Isabelle Wallace effectively demonstrates, in casting a critical eye on painting and the concept of representation more generally, Johns has consistently challenged ideas that have often been taken for granted, and in the process revitalized painting for an era that was quick to proclaim its obsolescence.