Jasper Johns (1930- )

Johns, Jasper (1930- ), American painter, sculptor, and printmaker, who has played a leading role in the development of mid-20th-century American art. In 1954 he began painting works in a manner radically different from the abstract expressionist style that then dominated American art. His canvases were devoted to such familiar objects as targets, American flags, numbers, and alphabet letters. He painted these subjects with objectivity and precision, applying paint very thickly, so that the paintings became objects in themselves rather than reproductions of recognizable items. This idea of art-as-object became a potent influence on later sculpture as well as painting; he often integrated three-dimensional objects into his paintings.

By the end of the 1950s Johns's paintings showed a freer, looser arrangement. In some of them, he attached real objects—such as rulers and compasses—to the canvas. False Start (1959, Scull Collection, New York City)—in which he stenciled intentionally incorrect labels over painted objects and patches of color—is a playful, punning work that was an immediate forerunner of pop art. Johns broke ground again with a four-painting cycle entitled “The Seasons,” shown in New York City in early 1987. The 75 by 50-inch paintings were considered especially significant in American art history.

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