Saturday, May 18, 2024

Jasper Johns: Drawings and Prints at San Diego Museum of Art

 by Patricia Frischer

Jasper Johns, Untitled, ink on plastic. 1983/84

On my trip to Balboa Park, I started with a very quick viewing at the Timken Museum to visit the Kehinde Wiley, Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan (2015). You may have seen reproductions, but make sure and see the real thing. It has an overwhelming presence and I was particularly intrigued as you could not see one brush stroke. It almost looks like a printed canvas. Only on view until the end of May, so make sure and stop in and visit this masterwork.
In this new exhibition at the San Diego Art Museum, Jasper Johns: Drawings and Prints, my key descriptive words, in sharp contrast to the Wiley, is intimate and completely hands on. You get a chance to see 14 works on paper and experience the touch of the artist hand in a close and personal way. The works date from 1960 to 2021. That is over 60 years in one small room. John DigesareSenior Registrar at SDMA, and curator for this exhibition  was able to draw from a private and the museum’s collection, as well as six drawings generously loaned directly from Jasper Johns. This is not the first Johns exhibition that Digesare has curated. Besides the previous one at the museum where Johns was included, Modern American Prints: 1920-1948, in 2019,  Digesare is also was responsible for Jasper Johns: Selected Prints, 1963 - 2008 in the Hoehn Family Galleries at the University of San Diego in 2009.
Johns, in his personal sketchbook, has said, “Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it. [Repeat].” We all know his early flag and number art works and they are well represented here. Motifs that are developed early on appear over and over, always with variations. He used classic tricks the eye illusions in two of these works. Did you know if you are under 30 the majority of people see the young women first and over 30 you see the old woman?  The vase with two facing portraits is a classic Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercise.
The After Picasso work obviously based on Picasso’s Women in a Straw Hat with Blue Leaves, is a clue to a recent discovery. Johns was not known to be a fan of Rodin, but the Green Angel has now been referenced to Rodin’s Torso of the Woman Centaur and Minotaur. There are many variations on that work.  

tracing of a soldier from the Isenheim altarpiece was further altered by hand colored acrylic over intaglio. He did many of these and the strokes of his brush are very noticeably applied over the colors of the original print. This makes each of them unique.
Unique and personal is definitely evident in the small hand-colored etching of three artists holding brushed poised behind a skeleton head. Dated 2021, it is the latest work in the show by this 94-year-old artist. Loaned by an anonymous owner, we are lucky to be able to see this selection of Jasper Johns artwork specially selected by John Digesare. 

Jasper Johns: Drawings and Prints
San Diego Museum of Art
May 18 – Oct 27, 2024

Photos by Patricia Frischer unless otherwise stated. 

John Digesare, curator and Senior Registrar, SDMA

Jaspar Johns, Two Flags. 1960, graphite

Jasper Johns, Flag on Orange, 1998, etching with aquatint

Jasper Johns, Spring, 1986, pastel and charcoal

Jasper Johns, After Picasso, 1986, charcoal 

Jasper Johns, Green Angel, 1991. etching. Gift of the artist, 2006.135. © 2024 Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, Published by Universal Limited Art Editions.

Auguste Rodin, Torso of the Woman Centaur and Minotaur c. 1910, Musée Rodin, Meudon, France.

Jaspar Johns, Untitled, 1999, hand colored acrylic over intaglio

Jaspar Johns, Green Angel 2, 1997, etching

Jaspar Johns, Untitled, 1990, mixed media

Jaspar Johns, Untitled. 2021, mixed media

Kehinde Wiley, Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan, 2015 at the Timken Museum (photo: Timkin Museum)

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