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One for All

I DON’T LIKE NOT liking Jasper Johns’ later paintings. It just seems ungenerous. The paintings from the first 20 years of his career have given me so much pleasure, so much excitement, so much consolation, that feeling a deep connection to his art slowly unravel for the second 20 years is like losing a cherished intimacy. My anxious anticipation for the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of Johns’ work since 1954 is born of a hope that I might get some idea of just what happened—either to the paintings, to me, or to both of us.

Between 1955, when he completed his famous Flag, and 1968, when there began a lengthy hiatus from his regular schedule of exhibitions every two or three years at Leo Castelli Gallery, Johns was an indispensable figure in creating an epochal shift in art. That change has since been characterized with many salient descriptions, including an evolutionary switch from

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