This exhibition premieres Jasper Johns’s most recent body of work, a cohesive group of two paintings, 10 drawings, and two prints created over the last year and a half.
In June 2012, Johns encountered an old photograph of the artist Lucian Freud reproduced in an auction catalogue. In the picture, Freud sits on a bed, holding his right hand to his forehead in a gesture of weariness or despair. Johns was inspired not only by this scene but also by the damaged appearance of the photograph itself. In the months that followed, he carried the image through a succession of permutations using a variety of mediums and techniques. The title and signature inscribed on most of the works— “Regrets/Jasper Johns”—call to mind a feeling of sadness or disappointment. The words, however, are not without irony: Johns has borrowed them from a rubber stamp he had made several years ago to decline the myriad requests and invitations that come his way.
Seen as a whole, the series reveals the importance of experimentation in Johns’s art, laying bare the cycle of dead ends and fresh starts, the way problems and solutions develop from one work to another, and the incessant interplay of materials, meaning, and representation so characteristic of his work over the last 60 years.