John Yau reviews Jasper Johns: Sculptures and Related Paintings at Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York, on view through January 23, 2015.
Yau writes: "One problem … as Barnaby Wright points out … is that Johns has never shown any affinity with 'the populist imagery of Andy Warhol or the ‘objective’ flatness of Frank Stella.' Here, another narrative emerges, which pits Johns’s remoteness against Warhol’s popularity, and deduces that the former is intellectual and elitist, while the latter is brilliantly in touch with his audience and therefore democratic. This isn’t just a strain of anti-intellectualism, but a deep-seated mistrust of artists and writers who want to put everything into their work … Johns didn’t buy into any of the modernist fictions — even those that originated with artists such as Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich — from the beginning. He seems to have no interest in postmodernist fictions, either. Johns is a skeptic who thinks that any promise of fulfillment is an illusion. He was never interested in pictorial states of objectivity, purity, opticality, presence, immanence or in stopping time. He certainly did not wish to be associated with, or even try to accommodate his work to, an aesthetic agenda."