The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on February 7, 1965 · Page 101
Get access to this page with a Free Trial
Click to view larger version

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 101

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 7, 1965
Page 101
Start Free Trial

Page 101 article text (OCR)

Pasadena Salutes a Young Master BY HENRY J. SELDIS In these accelerated times we are confronted increasingly with the en-Bhrinement of artists still in their 30s as contemporary "old masters." Thus the Pasadena Art Museum has been filled With some hundred works by Jasper johns, who first came to wide public attention only in 1958 and has since been the object of one of the most thorough jobs of promotion ever contrived by a more and more Madison Avenue-uainded art world. As a result, the great preview crowd of cognoscenti which filled the museum (mostly facing each other and away from the walls), having come from tha art fashion centers of tha world, Seemed in a state of auto-intoxication about the splendor and significance of this event, while visitors encountered on tha first public day of the exhibit were few and puzzled. Variations on a Theme ; Be that as it may, Johns happens to b a man of extraordinary talent and obvious diligence whose unorthodox approaches to painting and sculpture reflect both irony and engagement Unities those who have seen a decline in his work since the early part of his career when his creations seemed more controlled and less expressive than now, the later works are more convincing to me, though the artist's handling of extraneous elements in his work leaves much to be desired in way of inventiveness (or even of shock). Johns is a visual juggler who would have you believe that everything goes fa his work, yet the element of control (and often of cerebral irony) is present la most of his outstanding achievements. He is concerned not only with Juxtaposing banal images constantly presented to us in a mass-production JASPER JOHNS' "LARGE TARGET CONSTRUCTION" IN PASADENA SHOW society with a subjectively and painterly expressiveness that is basically poetic, but also with the problem of the exploration of space. And it does not really distract from their validity that his explorations in pictorial space are carried on through "the flat variations on a flag theme which mark a high point in his career, or by the fabricating and casting of a flashlight and a llghtbulb and socket which seem to supply his answer (deliberately mundane) to the question of three-dimensional space. Though Johns is now widely hailed as the immediate forerunner of pop art, his own creations contain a far higher degree of transformation and a far deeper concern with aesthetic considerations (even in their anti-aesthetic manifestation) than can be found in the superficial, sensational work of many of the younger pop artists. That Johns himself Is by no means a mere sensationalist is clearly demonstrated by the quality of invention and execution found in his drawings and prints, particularly those which deal with hi3 endless-exploration of numbers in a symbolic and spatial sense. A Dynamic Colorist His more recent paintings aeem much closer to the celebration of tha gesture that was central to abstract-expressionism than to the mechanically produced images of latter-day pop. His handling of color is dynamic and his recent palette seems imbued with a brilliancy close to Hans Hofmann's. It is doubtful that any small museum has ever allowed its visitors a look at a young artist in such depth. Whether or not such a retrospective is premature in Johns' case hardly matters because it is certainly rewarding to be able to follow one man's development In conception and execution step by step. To date he seems to have traveled from creating neat and ironic images to producing paintings of seething, churning sensuality. He does not merely appear as a transitional figure between abstract expres-lionism and pop but as an artist of superior talent and considerable poetic power who may well survive premature fame and fortune to create mature expressions in or out of step with fashion that will warrant a major retrospective 20 years hence. His Aims: Have People Look It seems to me that a recent work, titled "Arrival and Departure," which Is devoid of any sense of gimmickry ' may point to the kind of painting Johns will do increasingly as he toes of Teo-Dada tricks. Meanwhile, his aim seems to be simply to have us look; to accept reality without trying to analyze it. To those who come to the Jasper Johns show uninitiated in the most recent trends in contemporary American art, his iconcclasm may seem outrageous. But without joining the uncritical chorus of . adulation which has brought him to the pinnacle of the current art market, we conclude that Johns' vision is personal, powerful and persuasive. The exhibition, which continues to Feb. 21 at the Pasadena Art Museum, deserves careful attention from skeptics as well as followers of tha dernier crL ktMi.; lis "jylgs:! 1 rT - 11 iaiJLajMjJtiaii ' - " immO BRONZE BY JASPER JOHNS "HIGHWAY '59," JOHNS ENCAUSTIC AND COLLAGE ON CANVAS TWO

Get full access with a Free Trial

Start Free Trial

What members have found on this page