PRINT October 1977

Johns the Pessimist

Rolf-Dieter Herrmann

ALMOST FROM THE VERY BEGINNING of his career as an artist, Jasper Johns reflected about things which are of philosophical interest: about language; about change; about space, time and memory. He seemed to believe that he had to think about all these things in an ongoing process of dialectic, without a standstill, without resting anywhere, without arriving at any point where the dialectic might come to an end. This stance made him a critic of that which is taken for granted, of the mental status quo.

Johns often reminds me of Ulrich, the chief character of Robert Musil’s novel The Man without