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

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Contents - By FRANCES HEDGES

‘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)

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