Motif The Target Naming of Colors The Device Imprint of the Body National Gallery of Art
Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965
The "Device"

The device occurs by itself in some works; in others, it joins the stenciled word. In the painting Voice of 1964–1967, a taut wire reaches like an arm across the canvas to which a slat is affixed. The scrape of the device courses through a field of gray paint in a broad arc (we recall the image of the banded target, signifying sight and touch) that descends on the stenciled word VOICE. The device and its scraped ellipse represent time and space in a wholly abstract, yet empirical, fashion—that is, the time it took to move the device, and the physical trace the device inscribed onto the surface of the work. This is done in the context of yet another dimension, that of sound, abstractly identified by the stenciled object-word. In a painting,"voice"—which is not language per se but the medium of speech—can be named but never heard. In this regard, the power of Voice lies in the way both the capacity and the limitations of the medium of painting are physically demonstrated through the mechanics of producing the work. Indeed, as a proposition, describing what painting can and cannot be—in both literal and allegorical terms—occupies all the works in this exhibition and underscores the significance of the narrative they represent, from target to trace.

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