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Untitled, 1972

In the early 1960s, Jasper Johns introduced a new type of work into his practice: a monumental painting that functions simultaneously as a sort of dynamic catalogue of earlier ideas and generative inspiration for new works. Untitled (1972) is a prime example of this mode of painting.

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Untitled, 1972, by Jasper Johns
Untitled, 1972 by Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany: Donation, Ludwig, 1976) © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The four-panel work Untitled (1972) exists as a visual and conceptual cipher. In the leftmost panel, Johns premiered a crosshatch pattern, which would dominate much of the artist’s output for the following decade as he systematically explored the pattern’s conceptual and formal possibilities. The painting’s central two canvases feature the flagstone motif that Johns introduced in 1967. Lastly, the work’s rightmost panel supports lifelike cast-wax body parts affixed to a rough wooden lattice. The bodily fragments evoke both the erotic and the macabre: a nipple; a mouth; buttocks; a hand upon a foot.

Johns further developed ideas from Untitled through subsequent paintings, drawings, and prints that serve as studied translations of the original—and of one another. Comparing his first subjects, such as maps and numbers, to Untitled, Johns explained, “There are kinds of images that make a single impact, and there are kinds of images that express themselves as a multiplicity.”

The corresponding gallery at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York focuses on the monumental work According to What of 1964.


Image Gallery

All works by Jasper Johns, © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Untitled, 1973, by Jasper Johnsundefined
Within, 2007, by Jasper Johnsundefined
A Panel from “Untitled 1972,” 1973, by Jasper Johnsundefined
Foirades/Fizzles, 1976, written by Samuel Beckettundefined