WHAT LIES BENEATH Jasper Johns’ potent symbolism is decoded in a Royal Academy retrospective
A wide-ranging retrospective at the Royal Academy celebrates the groundbreaking career of the American artist Jasper Johns
‘One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least, in the work,’ Jasper Johns once said. A new exhibition showcasing more than 150 of the American artist’s paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, produced over six decades, will chart his ongoing quest to uncover the hidden truth that lies behind even the most familiar motifs.
In 1950s New York, Johns forged a new direction in an art world dominated by abstract expressionism. Rather than rejecting subject matter entirely, as his predecessors had done, he rendered it neutral by depicting objects such as flags, maps and light bulbs outside their usual frames of reference. Over the years, he has continued to challenge us to move beyond habitual forms of perception in his work, from typographical pieces that divorce language from meaning, to complex, intricate patterns that elude recognition.
‘What Johns does so well is to seduce the eye, encouraging us to look more intently at things,’ says the exhibition’s co-curator Edith Devaney. ‘His work is endlessly fascinating, because the more you look at it, the more layers you peel away.’
‘Jasper Johns: “Something Resembling Truth”’ is at the Royal Academy of Arts (www.royalacademy.org.uk) from 23 September to 10 December.
Jasper Johns’ ‘Target’ (1961)