Jasper Johns: Process and Printmaking, an exhibition on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from January 23 through April 4, 1999, presents 125 proofs and edition prints drawn almost entirely from the artist's personal collection. Among them are 30 completed works that are shown alongside their preliminary proofs, providing insight into the artist's complicated working process. Jasper Johns: Process and Printmaking will be installed in the Berman and Stieglitz Galleries on the Museum's ground floor.
Johns was at the center of the "painter-printmaker" revolution of the 1960s and was preeminent among a group of artists who broke with tradition by devoting themselves equally to both media. His works on paper, which frequently echo the imagery and themes of his paintings, continue to represent an important and integral component of his work. During the course of his intense exploration of the printmaking medium, Johns has expanded the possibilities of each of the print techniques he has used. At the same time, he has incorporated the concepts intrinsic to printmaking—reflection, reversal and transfer—into other aspects of his art, such as painting and sculpture.
Experimentation and variation are central to Johns's work. He has stated, "I think that the picture isn't pre-formed, I think it is formed as it is made; and might be anything." Johns's painting method, while involving constant alteration and feedback, produces completed works that bear little (if any) evidence of the stages of their dramatic development. His prints result from a similar approach, but the proofs made during the process allow the viewer to glimpse specific points in each work's evolution.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Johns often would embellish early stages of his prints with chalk, crayon, paint, and ink while he refined his imagery. These "thoughts, experiments, and asides," as Johns has called the proofs, reveal the unfolding of his painstaking working process.
Works by Jasper Johns figure prominently in the galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Department of 20th-Century Art includes Johns's Sculpmetal Numbers (1963) in its permanent collection, and its galleries have long been graced with loans of important works by the artist, including the painted bronze Savarin Can with Brushes and Painting with Two Balls (both 1960). The Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs has an extensive permanent collection of works on paper by Johns, including some 80 prints and proofs, a drawing, and a group of posters. Johns has previously been the subject of two Museum exhibitions: Jasper Johns — Prints: 1960-1970, which was presented in 1970, and Jasper Johns: Works Since 1974, which was organized for the Venice Biennale of 1988-89.
Jasper Johns: Process and Printmaking, organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, was sponsored by Philip Morris Companies, Inc. Additional support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. In Philadelphia, the exhibition will be coordinated by John Ittmann, Curator of Prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.