Friday, March 27, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns. The name trips off the tongue. It's a name I was previously aware of, without being able to identify any of the artist's work.

The art of Jasper Johns isn't the kind I'd hang on our living room walls, but then, not all art is for purposes of home decor. Jasper Johns' art has another purpose: to make the viewer think, and seek for meaning.

I searched for reports of interviews with Mr. Johns, to try to get a "feel" for the man. A few pointers from this one which originated in UK newspaper, The Guardian:
"Johns does not particularly like talking about his art. He's aware that by explaining what he means, he risks limiting the meanings that can be derived from it by others. His claim to the title of World's Greatest Living Artist is buttressed by his amazing wealth - one piece alone went for £12m........When he emerged on the art scene in the late 1950s, Johns' tightly controlled studies of everyday objects, his sculptures of coffee tins and ale cans, were read as a rebuke to Jackson Pollock and the abstract impressionists and he has since been called the father of pop art. He haughtily rejects both notions.

"I don't think it matters what it evokes as long as it keeps your eyes and mind busy," says Johns of art in general. "You'll come up with your own use for it. And at different times you'll come up with different uses."

Johns is not reclusive, but neither is he forthcoming. He asks me not to use a tape recorder because it makes him tongue-tied. He talks in short, enigmatic sentences, which teasingly deflate all the wind-baggery that has been written about him.

Johns' most important work with signs is Flag, one of his earliest exhibits, which he did in 1955. It is a collage of the Stars and Stripes made out of encaustic, a wax-type substance which Johns dropped scraps of newspaper into and allowed to set. Flag's challenge to the notion that symbols of state are fixed and inviolable - that they are not, under any circumstance, open to interpretation - was received at the time as blasphemous. The bits of newspaper symbolised the conflicting fictions upon which nations are built and the encaustic, an unstable material, was perceived by critics to be a metaphor for the unstable nature of identity. These subtleties have largely been lost through the work's mass reproduction and Flag is now displayed, more often than not, as a straightforward expression of patriotism. "But I wasn't trying to make a patriotic statement," says Johns.
"Many people thought it was subversive and nasty. It's funny how feeling has flipped." ..............

Was he also aware of its potential use as a metaphor?

"The thing is, if you believe in the unconscious - and I do - there's room for all kinds of possibilities that I don't know how you prove one way or another." "

Asked if he's ever thought of writing his memoirs. He said, "I don't know how to organise thoughts. I don't know how to have thoughts."

(Chart set for 12 noon, in the absence of time of birth).

Born 15 May in Augusta, Georgia. Sun in Taurus, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter in Gemini, with Venus and Jupiter conjoined. Taurus is ruled by Venus, planet of the arts, so no surprise that from a very early age Johns wanted to be an artist. With his Sun sign's ruler in mentally focused Gemini it's also unsurprising that the type of art he favors required its viewers to do some mental work of their own. Jupiter conjunct Venus adds a touch of philosophising to the mix.

Mars conjunct Uranus in Aries: a powerful pair pooling their resources - his radical avant garde style carried out with the confidence and enthusiasm of Aries.

Mercury is tightly square (challenging) Neptune. I'd say the significance of this close aspect is that his art, his method of communication, is not immediately clear to the observer, it's shrouded by Neptunian mist, requiring thought and perception to interpret it.

QUOTE: Sometimes I see it and then paint it. Other times I paint it and then see it. Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither.

Without a time of birth, ascendant sign and Moon position are not known. An early birth would put Moon in Sagittarius, later in the day, Moon would have moved into Capricorn. It's hard to say which is the more likely. Johns doesn't seem the exuberant Sagittarian optimist, but then again, hints of philosophy do peep out from his paintings, and a Sagittarius Moon placement would match Mercury conjunct Jupiter (Sagittarius' ruler).


anthonynorth said...

Strange art. I think I like it.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'd heard of him and seen bits of his work, I think in Sausalito.
Interesting complex artist.

Twilight said...

AN ~~ It is strange. I can't find much meaning - I'd need sub-titles!

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes. I find it surprising that he became so famous and his work so valuable. It's weird how some artisits just catch the imagination of the critics and the public, while others, equally talented or even more so, sink without trace.