February 2, 2008

Jasper Johns: Eminence gray

"Jasper Johns: Gray," curated by James Rondeau and Douglas Druick at The Art Institute of Chicago. Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. February 5 - May 4. Check out the NYTimes slide show of images.

"Jasper Johns: Drawings 1997-2007," Matthew Marks, New York, NY. Through April 12.

According to the press release, Johns has worked in gray, at times to evoke a mood, at other times to evoke an intellectual rigor that results from his purging most color from his works. This exhibition is the first to focus on this important thematic and formal thread in Johns's career. In anticipation of the opening at the Met on Tuesday, NYTimes reporter Carol Vogel interviewed Johns at his home in St. Martin. "To hear it from curators, gray is not just a familiar color for Mr. Johns but the essence of a long metaphysical journey, an exploration of 'the condition of gray itself.'" Vogel begins. "At least that’s the premise of a sprawling exhibition of his work that opens Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But when pressed on the show’s focus, he said simply: 'Yes, gray has been important to me. But I don’t tend to think of it as separate from the rest of my work.' The response is classic Johns. In a parallel to his mysterious grays, suggesting both effacement and a resolute ambiguity, Mr. Johns seems to have perfected the art of talking about his work without ever revealing too much. Always courtly, he answers questions in a measured, seemingly straightforward manner that leaves a listener wanting to know far more. It’s as if he is aware that a myth surrounds him that he must be careful not to dispel."

Vogel points out that, unlike so many contemporary artists producing in today’s overheated art market, Mr. Johns relies neither on dozens of assistants nor a computer to make his creations. "He executes his work by hand. 'It’s a different art world from the one I grew up in,' he said, relaxing in his living room in a pair of khaki shorts, a light blue shirt and sandals. 'Artists today know more. They are aware of the market more than they once were. There seems to be something in the air that art is commerce itself.' I haven’t really been a part of it, although I’m sure in some way I am. It just doesn’t interest me.' Asked what influence he feels he may have had on those young artists, Mr. Johns paused. 'To me,' he said, 'self-description is a calamity.'" Read more.

Related post:
On Jasper Johns at the Met

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