Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965

In printmaking, I think it would be perfectly reasonable never to destroy the images on the plates and stones, and always to have them available for use in new works, new combinations.
-Jasper Johns, 1978


Jasper Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia, in May 1930. His desire to be an artist dates to his childhood, which he spent in several rural South Carolina towns. Johns studied art for three semesters at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in 1949. There he attended classes at Parsons School of Design and worked at a variety of odd jobs before serving in the army during the Korean War, including a period in Japan. When he returned to New York in 1953, Johns engaged with contemporary philosophy, poetry, music, and dance, and he immersed himself in the visual arts, undertaking an intellectual as well as a visual pursuit. In January 1958, marking his first solo New York exhibition, his painting Target with Four Faces

Target with Four Faces, 1955
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Scull, 1958. Art Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY Digital Image The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
(1955) was featured on the cover of Artnews magazine, thrusting this virtually unknown artist into the public view. A master in many media, Johns is a printmaker of immense curiosity and skill. Since 1960, when he made his first lithographsa printing method in which a grease drawing on Bavarian limestone or a special metal plate is fixed with dilute nitric acid and gum arabic. To print, the surface is dampened with water, which is repelled by the grease drawing. The surface is then rolled with ink, which adheres only to the drawn marks, which are then transferred., he has added etchingprocesses in which an image is made by the corrosive action of acid on a metal plate, traditionally copper., screenprinta stencil process in which the image is applied to a screen. Ink is then forced onto paper through the mesh areas not covered by the stencil., and other techniques to his repertoire, and he has completed more than three hundred editions the total number of virtually identical impressions of an image printed from a matrix. For modern prints, the edition number is often documented by a fraction: 2/10, for example, indicates the print is number two from an edition of ten..


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