Target with Four Faces, 1968

Jasper Johns
Target with Four Faces, 1968

screenprint, working proof with chalk, ink, and collage
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund and Special Friends of the National Gallery. Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Editions with Additions: Working Proofs by Jasper Johns - NGA, Washington

On view in the East Building from October 11, 2009, through April 4, 2010, Editions with Additions: Working Proofs by Jasper Johns will present some 40 works on paper selected from approximately 1,700 proofs for 300 lithographs, etchings, and screenprints that the National Gallery has acquired from the artist.

Johns' proofs—including state and color trial proofs as well as working proofs—mark stages within the development of his printed images. It is in this context that his working proofs are best known. Part drawing and part print, the working proofs offer the additional opportunity to view Johns' motifs through the expressive lens of this combination of media, affirming the artist's comment that "an aspect always of interest to me is to develop an idea or an image and execute it in different ways to determine what its meaning could be."

The exhibition is arranged chronologically, and several works are on public view for the first time. The initial section of the show features working proofs from the 1960s and 1970s to introduce several motifs that Johns continues to revisit in paintings, drawings, and sculpture as well as in prints: letters of the alphabet, targets, names of colors, and body parts. Some of the artist's ongoing formal concerns are highlighted as well, such as repetition in Cups 4 Picasso (1972), and the rotation of imagery in Passage III (1967), a working proof related to a rare unpublished print.

Works in the second section include complex compositions from the 1980s and 1990s, in which Johns introduced autobiographical references, such as an image of his shadow, family photographs, a floor plan of his grandfather's house, and works of art by others that he admires, including ceramic objects by George Ohr (1857–1918). Paralleling the visual and conceptual density of the printed imagery, Johns' additions to his proofs became bolder and increasingly diverse in these later works, seen in several works entitled After Holbein (1993 and 1994).

In addition to allusions to Holbein, the exhibition includes visual references to Marcel Duchamp, Buckminster Fuller, Matthias Grünewald, and Pablo Picasso, suggesting the breadth of Johns' engagement with artistic predecessors.

All of the working proofs on view are selected from the National Gallery of Art's recent and ongoing acquisition of the artist's personal collection of proofs for his print editions, assembled throughout his career. Documenting changes he made before achieving the final images, they provide nuanced insight into Johns' artistic process.

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