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The Famous American Pop Art Artist – Jasper Johns

By admin | Sunday, April 25th, 2010 | Watercolor

The Famous American Pop Art Artist – Jasper Johns

Contemporary American Pop artist Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia. Raised in South Carolina, from a young age Jasper Johns wanted to be an artist. After attending three semesters at the University of South Carolina, he headed for New York in 1948 to attend the Parsons School of Design, where he attended for one semester before enrolling in the army and subsequently serving for two years during the Korean War. Johns’ friendship with artist Robert Rauschenberg was an important influence in his artistic career. His other friends of the time included composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Johns’ early work of the 1950s displays a new style which contributed to many further art movements including Conceptual, Minimal, and Pop art. This new style brought out by Johns was said to oppose the expressionistic abstraction of a generation earlier. The characteristic work of this period is the “Flag” (1954-55) depicting the American Stars and Stripes flag. The technique employed for this work was the dripping encaustic paint on a collage made from commonly found materials such as newspaper. This was followed by “White Flag” (1955) which is a large monochrome version of the previous work. These were followed by plenty of other versions of the initial flag painting. These include the oil on paper work, “Flag” (1957) and “Three Flags” (1958) that features three canvases superimposed on one another in reverse perspective.

The choice of the American flag represents “things the mind already knows,” according to Jasper Johns. Other familiar objects employed in Johns’ paintings include stencilled numbers, targets, and beer cans. Another suggestion made for the choice of the American flag has been the autobiographical element, as Jasper Johns was named after Sergeant William Jasper who raised the flag during the Revolutionary War. However, the significance of the flag is still open to reinterpretation with yet another suggestion made that the flag, being a flat object, represents the relative shallowness of modernist art.

Other characteristic examples of John’s work include “Map” (1962), “Numbers”, “False Start” (1959), “Study for Skin” (1962), “Figure Five” (1963-64), “Painting with Two Balls” (1960) and “Seasons” (1986).
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The 70s were characterized by more monotone works initiated by the prints Johns created to accompany writer Samuel Beckett’s text, “Fizzles”. The 80s witnessed further change in his paintings, with autobiographical elements appearing, and more sentiments being displayed as opposed to his earlier view that he was unconcerned with emotions.

Johns’ works have commanded great prices. “False Start” was purchased by Anne and Kenneth Griffin, private collectors, in 2006 for $80 million. It’s the highest price paid for a painting by a living artist.

Jasper Johns remains one of the foremost figures in American pop art. His focus on popular imagery, and his experiments that push the envelope of painting, sculpture and printmaking set the standards for future experimental artists. The fact that his paintings are part of almost any major collection of a museum highlights his influence and importance in the contemporary art scene. Though he is often classified as a Pop artist, his work displays characteristic of Neo-Dadaism.

By: George Baxter

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