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Jasper Johns

Augusta 1930


Jasper Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia on May 15, 1930. In 1947-48 he studies art at the University of South Carolina, but soon moves to New York where he does an apprenticeship as a commercial artist. In 1951-52 he has to serve his time in the army. Back in New York he earns a living doing odd jobs as a decorator or in book shops.
Jasper Johns meets Robert Rauschenberg in 1954, together they decorate the shop window of Tiffany's. Robert Rauschenberg soon has great influence on Johns' artistic work. In the 1950s he makes the first "Flag" pictures, and also the first "Target" and "Number" pictures. His first one-man show takes place in the gallery of Leo Castelli in New York in 1958.
Works from those days are dominated by the motif of the American flag, the target, but also numbers and letters, a style that makes Jasper Johns famous. Just as his friend Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns picks the issue of the ambiguity of symbols in a consumer society as the central motif of his work. Symbols that are deprived of their symbolic function by their daily reproduction by mass media. Jasper Johns soon begins to use the ancient technique of encaustic, which he applies to his newspaper collages.
As of the late 1950s he also works on sculptures, for which he casts and paints banal objects such as beer cans or light bulbs. In the 1960s he makes assemblages, integrating real objects or casts of body parts into his panels. His range of elements is expanded over the following year, his works become more and more complex and, full of details alluding to private events or art history.
Besides paintings, Jasper Johns' oeuvre comprises assemblages, sculptures and graphic works of a high quality. He shows works at "documenta" exhibitions 3, 4, 5 and 6. In 1988 he is awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale. In 1989 Jasper Johns is appointed honorary member of the Royal Academy in London. The Museum of Modern Art in New York shows a large retrospective in 1996.
Jasper Johns lives and works in New York, and for some time also in the Southern French town of Saint Martin.


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