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Jasper Johns

Catenary (I Call to the Grave), 1998, by Jasper Johns

(American, born 1930)

Since the mid-1950s, Jasper Johns has produced a remarkable and varied body of work distinguished by his constant reinvention of central concerns and visual tropes. Johns’s early use of common objects and motifs—“things the mind already knows,” as he has famously said—upended conventional notions of what an artwork is and can be. Through a wide range of visual media—from painting to prints, sculpture to drawing—Johns’s works exist in a paradoxical space between cognition and perception, image and object.

“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.” This oft-quoted maxim by the artist epitomizes the way he harnesses the familiar to turn icons of the everyday into art. Casting objects, rendering them anew in sculp-metal or encaustic, or iterating masterful prints in endless permutations of color, Johns creates extraordinary and intricately constructed works that have sparked movements such as Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism, among others, and that continue to inspire successive generations of artists today.