JASPER JOHNS "SUMMER BLUE" LITHOGRAPH, 1991
Jasper Johns (b.1930) is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. He had a major influence on the trajectory of American post-war art, encouraging the demise of Abstract Expressionism and the introduction of Pop Art.
In the 1950's, Johns rose to prominence with his unconventional painting approach and his embrace of figuration. He appropriated and depicted, everyday objects and simple schema like maps, targets, letters, and numbers. These banal and ubiquitous elements were frequently encountered in daily life, but irrelevant to art. By repeatedly presenting these motifs, Johns turned them into a continuous series. Johns helped usher representation back into the avant-garde, leading to the rise of Pop Art, which embraced everyday objects.
"Summer (Blue)" stems from Johns' series of four large encaustic paintings titled "The Seasons" which debuted at the famed Leo Castelli Gallery (NYC) in 1987. Each painting was named after one of the four seasons and mixed cultural artifacts with seasonal symbols of growth, life, and death. Click here for the original exhibition review of "The Seasons" by the New York Times.
This body of work was both allegorical and highly personal. Johns appears in the work as the filled-in silhouette alongside an outstretched arm and hand pointing to the progress of the year and the stage of the man's (Johns') life. Notice the thin, light-colored branch with a tiny hummingbird perched on it.
In the left panel, Mona Lisa's mysterious gaze signals John's affinity for Leonardo da Vinci (and appropriation). Surrounding her are two of Johns' favorite motifs: the American flag and cross-hatching patterns. (Click here to see another example of Johns' signature cross-hatching.)
Also appearing in the image are vessels created by American potter George Ohr (1857-1918). Ohr's ground-breaking practice led him to be considered a precursor to American Expressionism.
Lastly, there is a tiny and ambiguous seahorse. These sea creatures defy heteronormative gender roles, as the males typically become impregnated and give birth. To Johns, a gay man, this tiny creature could carry important challenges to traditional narratives of gender and sexuality.
"Summer(Blue)" is an outstanding example of John's signature hybrid of figuration and abstraction. Examples of "Summer" hang in the permanent collections of the Met Museum, MoMa, and the Tate.
Johns' works are highly sought-after by collectors around the world and regularly sell for millions of dollars at auction. In 2010 one of Johns' paintings sold for an astonishing $110 million. He has regularly been considered the most valuable living artist.
Additional images available on request.
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Signed, dated, and numbered in pencil by the artist
From an edition of 225
9.5"H 6.3"W (image)
16.12"H 11.25"W (sheet)
19"H 13.75"W (framed)
Very good condition.
Printer: Universal Limited Art Editions, New York
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