Jasper Johns, Jr. (born May 15, 1930, in Augusta, Georgia) is a contemporary artist; painter and printer. He was a close friend of Robert Rauschenberg, with which he shared studio and exchanged intensively ideas and inventions for some years. The two were also closely befriended with the composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham.
- I make what it pleases me to make.. ..I have no ideas about what the paintings imply about the world. I don't think that's a painter's business. He just paints paintings without a conscious reason. I intuitively paint flags.
- Trend to the Anti-Art: Targets and Flags, Newsweek 51 no. 13, March 1958, p. 96
- [to see the painting]..as an object, as a real thing in itself. (quote on his Flag-paintings)
- Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, p. 200
- I made the flags and targets to open men's eyes.. ..[they] were both things - which are seen and not looked at - examined.
- his own comment on his exhibition of the 'Flag, Target and Number' paintings in 1958
- It all began with my painting a picture of an American flag. Using this design took care of a great deal for me because I didn't have to design it. So I want on to similar things like the targets things the mind already knows. That gave me room to work on other levels. For instance, I've always thought of a painting as a surface; painting it in one color made this very clear.. .A picture ought to be looked at the same way you look at a radiator.
- His heart belong to DADA, Time 73, 4 May, 1959: 58; as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 82
- Sometimes I see it and then paint it. Other times I paint it and then see it. Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither. At every point in nature there is something to see. My work contains similar possibilities for the changing focus of the eye.
- Sixteen Americans, (1959) Dorothy C. Miller, Moma, New York, p. 22
- My primary concern is visual form. The visual meaning may be discovered afterwards – by those who look for it. Two meanings have been ascribed to these American Flag paintings of mine. One position is: 'He's painted a flag so you don't have to think of it as a flag but only as a painting'. The other is: 'You are enabled by the way he has painted it to see it as a flag and not as a painting.' Actually both positions are implicit in the paintings, so you don't have to choose.
- The Insiders, Rejection en Rediscovery of Man in the Arts of our Time, Selden Rodman, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1960, Chapter 6.
- The relationship between the object & the event. Can they 2 be separated? Is one a detail of the other? What is the meeting? Air?
- Book A (sketchbook), p 8, c 1960: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 49
- Make something, a kind of object, which as it changes or falls apart (dies as it were) or increases in its parts (grows as it were) offers no clue as to what its state or form or nature was at any previous time. Physical and Metaphysical. Obstinacy. Could this be a useful object?
- Book A (sketchbook), p 9, c 1960: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 50
- I'm especially interested in the music of John Cage.. .I would like to do some experimenting with the relationship between his freeform sound and free-form art.
- John Adds Plaster Casts To Focus Target Paintings, Donald Key, Milwaukee Journal, 19 June 1960, pt. 5, p. 6
- ..I don’t see any point in simply stating something that is easily available. But then that may just be my own psychology, a kind of negative position. It seems to me that if you avoid everything you can avoid, then you do what you can't avoid doing, and you do what is helpless, and unavoidable. That seems to me more interesting than any other position at this moment – for me anyway.
- interview at Johns' studio, Billy Klüver, March 1963, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 87
- ..it seems to me that you could take the opposite point of view, and say that continuity (in language and in thought, B.K.) is the thing that is so distressing and that what one can do is attempt to create a discontinuous situation. It seems to me that continuity is almost a static concept. And since we have the concept of discontinuity it seems to me that it would be more interesting to attempt to establish that.
- interview at John's studio, Billy Klüver, March 1963, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 89
- Donald Judd spoke of a 'neutral' surface, but what is meant? Neutrality must involve some relationship (to other ways of painting, thinking?) He would have to include these in his work to establish the neutrality of that surface. He also used 'non' or 'not' – expressive – this is an early problem – a negative solution or – expression of new sense – which can help one into – what one has not known. 'Neutral' expresses an intention.
- Book A (sketchbook), p 31, c 1963: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 50
- Like drawing a straight line – you draw a straight line and it's crooked and you draw another straight line on top of it and it's crooked a different way and then you draw another one and eventually you have a very rich thing on your hands which is not a straight line. If you can do that the it seems to me you are doing more than most people. The thing is, it is very difficult to know oneself whether one is doing that or not, whether you mean what you do; and there is the other problem of the way you do it and whether sometimes you do more than you mean or you do less than you mean. It's very good if you can establish a language where it's clear that that is what you are doing – that you do what you mean to do.
- interview at John's studio, Billy Klüver, March 1963, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 85
- An invisible drawing made in the air. Make a drawing behind your back. Make a stolen painting.
- Book A (sketchbook), p 40, c 1963-64: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 53
- Bend color names which should be made of neon or copper tubing. Place an object on a surface – trace the object – then bend the object – leaving some part of it attached.
- Book A (sketchbook), p 43, c 1963-64: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 54
- As you [Tono] has written, people say that my works are 'neutral'. But if you paint something, it is 'something', and it cannot be neutral. Being neutral is a mere expression of a form of intention.
- Jasper Johns in Tokyo, Yoshiaki Tono, Tokyo August 1964, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 101
- Cubism is an anatomical chart of a way of seeing external objects. But I want to confuse the meaning of the act of looking.
- Jasper Johns in Tokyo, Yoshiaki Tono, Tokyo August 1964, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed; Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 104
- Put a lot of paint & a wooden ball or other object on a board. Push to the other end of the board. Use this in a painting. – ruler on board.
- Book A (sketchbook), p 52, c 1964: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 58
- The Watchman falls "into" the trap of looking. The "spy" is a different person.. ..The spy must be ready to "move", must be aware of his entrances and exits. The watchman leaves his job & takes away no information. The spy must remember & must remember himself & his remembering. The spy designs himself to be overlooked. The watchman "serves" as a warning. Will the spy & the watchman ever meet? In a painting named SPY, will he be present? The spy stations himself to observe the watchman. If the spy is a foreign object, why is the eye not irritated? Is he invisible? When the spy irritates, we try to remove him. "Not spying, just looking" – Watchman. Somewhere here, there is the question of "seeing clearly". Seeing what? According to what?
- Book A (sketchbook), c 1965: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 60
- What is meant by "the representation of space"? What distinguishes one representation from another? Does this mean "how does one see that one thing is not another thing?" What constitutes a change of focus?.. .What about "another way of establishing (?) "thingness"? "Something" can be either one thing or another (without turning the rabbit on its side)..
- Book B (sketchbook), c 1967: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 62
- Shake (shift) parts of some of the letters in Voice (2). A-not-complete-unit, or a new unit. The elements in the 3 parts should neither fit nor not fit together. One would like not to be led. Avoid the idea of a puzzle which could be solved. Remove the signs of "thought". It is not the "thought" which needs showing.. .It is not interesting and should not be shown (to be) as interesting that the parts can be shifted. It was always true that they can be shifted. 'Duchamp's ironing board'. Does Teeny Duchamp have an ironing board?
- Book B (sketchbook), c 1967: as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 64
- Merce [Cunningham] is my favorit artist in any field. Sometimes I'm pleased by the complexity of a work I paint. By the fourth day I realize it's simple. Nothing Merce [Cunningham] does [choreography for dance] is simple. Everything has a fascinating richness and multiplicity of direction. [Jasper Johns did a lot of décors for Merce Cunningham, as Robert Rauschenberg did and Frank Stella,]
- Merce, Hubert Saal, Newsweek 71, no. 22, 27 May 1968, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 129
- Marcel Duchamp, one of this century's pioneers, moved his work through the retinal boundaries which had been established with Impressionism into a field where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed form through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in more recent art.. .He declared that he wanted to kill art ('for myself') but his persistent attempts to destroy frames of reference altered our thinking, established new units of thought, a "new thought for that object".
- Marcel Duchamps 1887 – 1968, Artforum 7 no. 3, November 1968, p. 6
- His [Marcel Duchamp's] idea was that anything could be art by focusing the mind to think of it as art. My images are similar but at the time my work was first being shown, 1958-'59, I was unfamiliar with Duchamp and Dada. Everyone said my work was Dada, so I read on it, went to Philadelphia to see the Arensberg Duchamp collection, was delighted by it and later met him (Duchamp).. .But it was all more a coincidence. Perhaps it’s that certain ideas get into the air, ideas that come out of our living and out of the environment automatically.
- Daily Close-up, after the Flag, Roberta Brandes Gratz, New York Post, 30 December 1970, p. 25
- Every artist feels alone and isolated. Friends are very important in terms of all sorts of definitions of oneself. They tell you what you are and what they are aside from the intellectual aspects.
- Daily Close-up, after the Flag, Roberta Brandes Gratz, New York Post, 30 December 1970, p. 25
- Object in/ and space – the first impulse may be to give the object – a position – to place the object. (The object had a position to begin with). Next – to change the position of the object. – Rauschenberg's early sculptures – A board with some rocks on it. The rocks can be anywhere on the board. - Cage's Japanese rock garden – The rocks can be anywhere (within the garden)..
- Book C (sketchbook), c. 1970; as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 70
- I have attempted to develop my thinking in such a way that the work I've done is not me – not to confuse my feelings with what I produced. I didn't want my work to be an exposure of my feelings. Abstract Expressionism was so lively – personal identity and painting were more or less the same, and I tried to operate the same way. But I found I couldn't do anything that would be identical with my feelings. So I worked in such a way that I could say that it's not me. That accounts for the separation.
- Jasper Johns: 'I have attempted to develop my thinking', Vivien Raynor, Artnews 72 no. 3, March 1973, p. 20-22
- Painting has a nature which is not entirely translatable into verbal language. I think painting is a language, actually. It's linguistic in a sense, but not in a verbal sense. I think that one wants from painting a sense of life. And I think that is true. One wants to be able to use all of one’s facilities in all aspects of one’s life.. .You may have to choose how to respond and you may respond in a limited way, but you have been aware that you are alive. The final suggestion, the final statement, has to be not a deliberate statement but a helpless statement.
- interview with Johns conducted in 1975 at Johns’ studio by Yoshiaki Tono, as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma New York, 1996, p. 89
- He Robert Rauschenberg was a kind of enfant terrible at the time [around 1960] and I thought of him as an accomplished professional. He’d already had a number of shows, knew everybody, had been to Black Mountain College in South Carolina, working with all those avant-garde people.. ..Rauschenberg focused very much on working. I was prepared to do that, too. He was also involved with Merce Cunningham dance group and totally unconcerned with his success, in the cliché term. All of the activity had a lively quality, quite separate from any commercial situation.. ..[Rauschenberg moved into a loft in Jaser John's building and they very closely worked together for a couple of years]. You get a lot by doing. It's very important for a young artist to see how things are done. The kind of exchange we had was stronger than talking. If you do something then I do something then you do something, it means more than what you say.
- Once Established, says Jasper Johns...,Grace Glueck, New York Times, 16 October 1977, sec. 2 pp. 1-31
- Once, I made a kind of sculpture of a flag in bronze: it was an edition of three, I think. One of them was given on some occasion to President Kennedy. I became very upset that this was happening. It was given on Flag Day! (he laughs). It seemed to me to be such a terrible thing to happen. I complained bitterly to my very good friend John Cage, [the composer]. He said: "Don't let it worry you. Just consider it as a pun on your work". (he laughs).
- Jasper Johns Interviewed/ Jasper Johns interviewed Part II, Peter Fuller, Art Montly, London, August/September 1978
- I don't want my work to be an exposure of my feelings.
- Abstract Expressionism, Davind Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd London, 1990, p. 202
- I met him Cummingham around 1953 after a performance I saw. He was teaching and making dances for his company and was already working with John Cage. What interested me initially wasn't just the movement but also the music he worked with, which was unfamiliar to me.. .Later Bob Rauschenberg had been doing sets and costumes for the Cunningham Company.. .I can't say exactly how, but for a period of time, Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg, and I saw each other frequently and exchanged ideas. John [Cage] was very interested in presenting his ideas to other people, so it was impossible to be around and not to learn.. .He could apply his ideas on space and time to painting, or music or architecture.. .I don't have a clear sense of cause and effect in my painting, but it is probably there.
- Jasper Johns, by Bryan Robertson and Tim Marlow, Tate, in 'The Art Magazine', London, Winter 1993, pp. 40, 47
- Everybody is of course free to interpret the work in his own way. I think seeing a picture is one thing and interpreting it is another.
- as quoted in photo-exhibition 'Cy Twombly', museum Marseille Amsterdam, autumn 2008
- To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist.
- as quoted in photo-exhibition 'Cy Twombly', museum Marseille Amsterdam, autumn 2008
Quotes about Jasper Johns
- The thing that struck me most was the way he stuck to the motif [in the Flags and Targets painting by Jasper Johns].. ..the idea of stripes – the rhythm and the interval – the idea of repetition. I began to think a lot about repetition. [quote in 1960’s]
- Frank Stella (1960's), in: The New York school – the painters & sculptors of the fifties', Irving Sandler, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, pp. 215-216
- ..because his applying paint to it [the sculpture 'Painted Bronze, two painted ale cans', created by Jasper Johns] was absolutely mechanical or, at least, as close to the printed thing as possible. It was not an act of painting; actually, the printing [or painting?] was just like printing except it was made by hand by him. That doesn’t add a thing to it. – it’s just the idea of imitating the beer can that is important.
- Marcel Duchamp in: 'Some late thoughts of Marcel Duchamp', an interview with Jeanne Siegel, p. 21; as quoted in 'The New York school – the painters & sculptors of the fifties' Irving Sandler, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, p. 194
- Well, this man [Jasper Johns], in a interview wanted to know why I stopped painting [the so-called famous 'Silence of Duchamp'].. ..and he [Jasper Johns] had said [it was] because of dealers and money and various reasons. Largely moralistic reasons.. ..But you know; it wasn’t like that. It’s like you break a leg; you don’t mean to do it.
- Marcel Duchamp, in: Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma, New York, 1996; p. 151
- He [Jasper Johns] and I were each other's first serious critics. Actually he was the first painter I ever shared ideas with, or had discussions with about painting. No, not the first. Cy Twombly was the first. But Cy and I were not critical. I did my work and he did his. Cy's direction was always so personal that you could only discuss it after the fact. But Jasper and I literally traded ideas. He would say, 'I've got a terrific idea for you' and then I'd have to find one for him. [remark on his early cooperative relation with Jasper Johns, to his biographer w:Calvin Tomkins
- Robert Rauschenberg, in a talk with Calvin Tomkins; as quoted in Lives of the great twentieth century artists, Edward Lucie-Smith, London,1986. p. 31
- It was my sensual excessiveness that jarred him [Jasper Johns]. He was always an intellectual. He read a lot, he wrote poetry – he would read w:Hart Crane's poems to me, which I loved but didn't have the patience to read myself – and he was often critical of things like my grammar. But you don't let a thing like that bother you if you have only two or three real friends.
- Robert Rauschenberg, in Off the Wall: Robert Rauschenberg and the Art world of Our Time, Calvin Tomkins, Penguin Books, New York, 1980, p. 119
- [we gave] permission to do what we wanted.. .It would be hard to imagine my work at that time [c. 1956 – 1960] without his [Jasper John's] encouragement.
- Robert Rauschenberg, in Robert Rauschenberg, Works, Writings and Interviews, Sam Hunter, Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, Spain, 2006p. 71
- It [the first work in her show 'Wind' 2009] is dedicated to Jasper Johns I named it 'Homage à Jasper Johns'. As he basically did these 'flags', I mean he is so famous because of 'flags', and I was thinking of a flag too, and so I did this, so I was thinking of him because he's so incredibly famous and I'm not.
- Isa Genzken (2009) in: 'Out to Lunch with Isa Genzken', interview by Simon Denny, visiting Isa Genzken's show 'Wind', 2009, Courtesy: Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin