When Jasper Johns had his first one-person exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery — in 1958, at the age of twenty-seven — its impact was widespread and immediate. His work signaled a new direction for contemporary art, one that would lead away from Abstract Expressionism and forward to Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual art, and beyond. The Museum of Modern Art acquired four works directly from the show: paintings of targets, flags, and numerals (subjects Johns called “things the mind already knows”).
In the six decades since, Johns has continued to explore new symbols and images, building an extensive personal lexicon that is sometimes enigmatic but always unmistakably his own. A single painted motif might reappear decades later in a sculpture, a drawing, a print, or even in another painting. “My experience of life is that it’s very fragmented; certain kinds of things happen, and in another place a different kind of thing occurs,” he has explained. “I would like my work to have some vivid indication of those differences.”
Jasper Johns (b. 1930) grew up in South Carolina and moved to New York in 1953, where he met Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham. The artistic ideas of these four friends and sometime collaborators helped establish a new American avant-garde, redefining the role of artistic intent through the use of found imagery and chance. Johns’s work in particular has had a profound impact on American culture. He has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at museums around the world, including career surveys at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Royal Academy in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In September 2021 the exhibition “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror” will open simultaneously at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.