Peter Plagens


Nobody really hates JASPER JOHNS. But for many, Johns is becoming-the-artist-you-love-to-hate-because-too-many-uncool-establishment-types-have-climbed-aboard-his-love-boat. And then there’s the Museum of Modern Art. How can one of its unimaginative, right-down-the-pike, chock-full, lockstep, didactic retrospectives be the best show of the year? Or Philip Morris? How can you honor the cancer peddlers? Well, sorry, sorry, and sorry. “Jasper Johns: A Retrospective” is a clear, encyclopedic view of a great late-modern artist. The show’s conception (orthodox) and installation (“chunky,” I’d call it) were necessitated by the sheer number and variety of Johns’ works. You’ve got to have separate rooms for the “crosshatch” abstractions and the “Montez” paintings of lips-equal-mountains-equal-islands, and you’ve got to arrange things chronologically to make sense of Johns’ getting

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