He’s painted a flag so you don’t have to think of it as a flag but only as a painting”
—Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns has claimed that the medium is more important to him than the message. “My primary concern is visual form.” he said. “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.”

Although Johns focuses on technique when discussing his work, much of what he has produced has deep meaning.

In 1960, Johns began to experiment with printing techniques, in the same way that he experimented with varying painting techniques, transforming the surface textures of his prints.

The 1979 lithograph, Periscope l, is an homage to the poet Hart Crane, who struggled with depression, alcoholism and his sexuality. Crane killed himself, at age 32, by jumping off a steamship into the Gulf of Mexico en route to New York. In his poem, Cape Hatteras, Crane wrote:

…while time clears
Our lenses, lifts a focus, resurrects
A periscope to glimpse what joys or pains
Our eyes can share or answer–

Johns began the Periscope l series after his breakup with Robert Rauschenberg. The first painting was done in shades of grey, with the colors spelled out in stenciled lettering.

Periscope l is for sale in our gallery, as is an untitled etching that was made by Johns to commemorate the death, in 1994, of Henry Geldzahler. Geldzahler was the curator of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and a powerful advocate for contemporary artists. In 1969, he convinced the historically conservative Met to let him curate a show that included over 400 works by more than forty artists, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.

In honor of Geldzahler, ten artists, including Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstien, donated work that was published as The Geldzahler Portfolio in an edition of 75, to help raise money for the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS. The Met, MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art were among the buyers of the portfolio.

Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it”
—Jasper Johns

Johns’ quip, “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it,” belies the underlying emotion that comes through in his work. Johns’ printmaking was influenced by his respect for print work of Picasso. In 1973, after the death of Picasso, Johns created Cups 2 Picasso, which depicts a chalice created by the facing silhouettes of Picasso.

Johns uses similar chalices in an untitled intaglio, done in 2012, also available at Vertu.

Please stop by or contact us for more information about Jasper Johns Prints and other fine art prints by our favorite artists for sale in our gallery.