Starting Feb. 10, 2018, the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles is presenting “Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth,’” an exhibit that displays over 125 of the iconic artist’s works spanning 60 years. The retrospective encompasses a range of Johns’ renowned motifs and techniques.
The Broad exhibition is the first American showcase of the 87-year-old Georgia-born artist’s work in more than two decades and the first in the Los Angeles area in half a century. The paintings, prints, sculptures, and drawings contain loans from 60 public and private collections, including many pieces never previously exhibited in Southern California. There are also significant works from the collection museum founders Eli and Edythe Broad amassed.
The Jasper Johns career survey was developed in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where it was exhibited last fall. The Broad visit, which includes some pieces not seen in England, is the only U.S. showing planned.
Johns is widely considered to be one of the 20th century most influential artists. According to Joanne Heyler, the Broad’s founding director, Johns used everyday imagery to move the conversation on art to new places. His renditions of American flags, targets, numbers and such seem simple on the surface, but they stimulate the eye and mind by creating different perceptions. So do his found-material collages incorporated in paintings. In the artist’s own words, his work presents things “that are seen but not really looked at.”
Most retrospectives are organized chronologically to show how the artist’s work evolved. “Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth’” is presented thematically, which reflects the fact the artist used recurring imagery over the decades. For example, a room containing his various “Flag” works include early ones from the 1950s, including “Three Flags (1958)” on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art, show 48 stars (Hawaii and Alaska were not states then). Later pieces in the room have 50 stars. Seeing all the flag works juxtaposed at the Broad illustrates how Johns took a concept and reinvented it in a variety of ways.
Some highlights include:
- The exhibit section on “Things the Mind Already Knows,” which includes the flags, also features images of other everyday objects. There are several renditions from his numbers pieces using different mediums and materials.
- The “Time and Transience” section showcases some of his crosshatching configured in detailed arrangements and jagged colorful markings. They include the first Johns painting that the Broads purchased in 1978, “Untitled (1975),” as well as pieces from the artist’s own collection.
- “In the Studio” reflects life as an artist and tools they use. Johns’ famous “Painted Bronze (1960),” a sculpture that consists of a coffee can filled with paintbrushes, is prominently displayed here.
- “Seasons and Cycles” contains several self-reflective series with a silhouette of the artist (derived from his shadow) conspicuously featured. Johns’ four “Seasons” paintings from 1985-1986, which show many objects displayed in his other works, are hung side by side. The grouping seems to reflect the span of the artist’s career in a one-year time span, with flags, rulers, and other regularly used symbols incorporated.
- “Memory Tracings” pieces include some created in recent years. Many of these works are autobiographical, including a rendition of an old family photo.
The Broad will display the iconic “Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth’” art from the last 60 years until May 13, 2018. The contemporary art museum offers free general admission for its regular galleries, but there is an admission charge and timed tickets on sale for this special presentation. Due to the museum’s overwhelming popularity, advance reservations are recommended.
By Dyanne Weiss
Exhibition preview Feb. 7
The Broad: Jasper Johns: ‘something resembling truth,’ Six decades of artwork by an iconic American artist
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jasper Johns (born 1930)
Los Angeles Times: ‘Three Flags’ and other rare Jasper Johns works unveiled at the Broad
New York Times: Jasper Johns Still Doesn’t Want to Explain His Art
Photo by Dyanne Weiss of “Corpse and Mirror II,” 1974-1975, oil and sand on canvas, four panels, by Jasper Johns, from the artist’s collection
Photo by Dyanne Weiss of “Summer (1985),” encaustic on canvas, by Jasper Johns, on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.