JASPER JOHNS: MIND / MIRROR
SEPT 29, 2021-FEB 13, 2022 by Norma Poindexter
At ninety-one, the brilliant artist, Jasper Johns, still creates extraordinary art work, and has shaped the contemporary artistic landscape for over 70 years with a roster of iconic images that have imprinted themselves on the public’s consciousness. Mega-talent Johns now boasts an unprecedented simultaneous exhibition, Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror, starting in September and ending in February at both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. Each a self-contained exhibition, the two shows relatedly mirror each other, and provide rare insight into the working process of one of the greatest artists of our times. The largest exhibition of his career with nearly 500 pieces across the two museums, the exhibition features both fabulously well-known and more obscure paintings, unique sculptures, compelling drawings and prints, many from Johns’s personal collection, and many never even seen before. The overwhelming exhibition is Johns’s first major museum retrospective on the East Coast in a quarter of a century, and there’s high hopes to introduce a whole new generation to this iconic artist, who tirelessly pursues innovative bodies of work.
Jasper Johns, Racing Thoughts, 1983 (Whitney Musuem of Art)
With Johns’s fascination with mirroring and doubles, each half of the exhibition acts as a reflection of the other, and invites you to explore the themes, methods and coded visual language that echo across the two venues. Whether you visit New York or Philadelphia, you travel through a vivid, chronological survey and an innovative and immersive exploration of all phases, masterworks, and mysteries of Jasper Johns’s still-developing career. They’re designed to illuminate a different aspect of Johns’s thought and to work through a specific, methodological lens by spotlighting themes, processes, images, mediums and even emotional states. The unique double-venue framework aims to challenge the traditional format of the retrospective as a unified overarching and univocal narrative, providing an alternative model for tracing the arc of the artist’s work.
Conceived as a unified whole with two autonomous parts, this fabulous retrospective at both locations
is organized by gifted curators and experts from both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the
Philadelphia Museum of Art: two of the curators, Carlos Basualdo and Scott Rothkopf, are long-time
scholars, and each have a close relationship with the artist. One of their primary aims is to revivify the
incredible sense of daring and discovery at the heart of Johns’s art. The Whitney has been collecting
and showing Johns’s enigmatic, poetic and profoundly influential work since the 1960’s, and
Philadelphia has long dedicated a gallery to a rich display of his work. Collaborating with private and
public collections locally and globally, the curators meticulously created this comprehensive group to be
presented in highly-customized galleries to maximize each museums’ unique environments.
Born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns produced a radical and varied body of work distinguished
by constant reinvention since the 1950s. The now canonical Flag (1954-1955) challenged the
dominance of Abstract Expressionism at the time, and his works have continued to explore new
approaches to abstraction and figuration that have opened up perspectives for several generations of
younger artists. The more recent works offer a poignant meditation on works related to the themes of
mortality and longing, and serve as new inspiration for generations.
Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror exposes the complexity and originality of his work at a new scale and seeks to test some of the conventional perceptions of it. We’re obviously not alone in sincerely hoping that Jasper Johns continues his brilliant, complex work to test the world for many years to come.