“I think that one wants from a painting a sense of life. The final suggestion, the final statement, has to be not a deliberate statement but a helpless statement. It has to be what you can’t avoid saying.”
One of the foremost innovators of modern and contemporary art, Jasper Johns (b. Augusta, Georgia, 1930) is best known for his deliberate use of commonplace, recognizable objects such as targets, numbers, and flags in his paintings, prints, and sculptures, notably facilitating Pop art in addition to other movements. Johns first studied at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York, where he befriended artists including Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg, the latter of whom was a particularly important friend and influence. Johns had his first one-man exhibition with gallerist Leo Castelli in 1958. The show had an immediate impact on the art scene in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art notably bought four paintings from the show in spite of the fact Johns was relatively unheard of. In the 1960s, Johns turned from his colorful works to a more somber palette, which some credit at least partially to a result of the deterioration of his relationship with Rauschenberg. In the 1970s he began to incorporate structural aspects and autobiographical elements into his works. Johns has won numerous honors and awards, including the Grand Prize for Painting at the 1988 Venice Biennale, the National Medal of Arts in 1990, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. He currently lives and works in Sharon, CT.