Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth is my pick for Spring Break in L.A. this year. The exhibition opened last month at The Broad in downtown L.A. with rave reviews and I’m sure it will make more than a few critics’ Top 10 lists for 2018. You can purchase tickets online but don’t delay. Tickets are selling out quickly and the exhibition is only on view through May 13. Here are 5 reasons why Jasper Johns is a must-see exhibition.
1. Jasper Johns is one of the greatest American artists. In the 1950’s, Johns’ paintings of the American flag captured the art world’s attention and the rest is history. Through his groundbreaking appropriation of popular symbols like the flag, Johns “charted a radical new course” in 20th Century art which at the time was dominated by Abstract Expressionism.
2. It’s a rare opportunity to see over 120 of John’s most significant works at once. Almost all of them are on loan from art institutions across the globe–from MOMA in New York to The Tate in London–and they rarely travel. This comprehensive survey spans Johns’ impressive 60-year career including more recent works. Johns continues to work in his Connecticut studio at the age of 87.
3. More than a flag. The exhibition begins with a gallery devoted solely to Johns’ American flag paintings. Stepping into this gallery, the complexity of Johns’ creative vocabulary is striking. You’ll see his iconic red, white, and blue paintings of the American flag; and other lesser known flag paintings in unexpected colors like grey, orange, and green. Be sure to read the label to learn how one painting (below left) creates an optical illusion.
As you continue on, you’ll encounter Johns’ treatment of other familiar motifs including numbers, letters, maps, and targets. In his exploration of everyday things that are, in his own words, “seen but not looked at,” Johns’ shifts our focus in a way that makes the familiar, unfamiliar.
4. It’s all in the details. Chances are you’ve seen lots of reproductions of Johns’ paintings in books and online, but there’s no substitute for seeing them up close and in person. Digital images can’t come close to representing the vibrancy and edgy texture of his paintings. Johns creates these dramatic textures through his unique application of heated beeswax (a process called encaustic).
A close look at a target painting reveals there is more than paint and encaustic on the canvas. There are actually layers of torn pieces of what looks like newspaper throughout the piece. Johns is known for incorporating found-material objects in his work, and in doing so, he blurs distinctions between sculpture and painting.
5. You’ll get schooled and I mean that in the best way possible. Not only will you get a deeper understanding of Johns’ remarkable contribution to American art history, you’ll also gain a greater appreciation for how Johns and his peers (most notably Robert Rauschenberg) influenced one another’s work. So get your tickets now for this unforgettable art experience at The Broad.
See you in the galleries!
Images: Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. Jasper Johns, Green Angel,1990. Encaustic and sand on canvas. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Jasper Johns, Target (detail),1961. Encaustic and collage on canvas.The Art Institute of Chicago. All photos by Rowanne Henry, 2018.