Jasper Johns, Painting with Two Balls, 1960, encaustic and collage on canvas, wooden balls, 65 × 54 1/8". © Jasper Johns/VAGA, New York/DACS, London.



Royal Academy of Arts | Piccadilly
Burlington House, Piccadilly
September 23–December 10, 2017

Curated by Roberta Bernstein and Edith Devaney

Some 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints by Jasper Johns will constitute a vast assembly that begins in the 1950s. In the early years of his career, Johns’s work was thought to reflect the consumerist boosterism that arguably infused Pop art. But he was also negotiating between abstract epistemes—stripes, say, or hatchings, or catenary curves—and an abstruse iconography of mortality, elements of which Johns found in Edvard Munch’s Between the Clock and the Bed, 1943, or in the armor of the sleeping guards in Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, 1512–16. Johns’s most recent pictorial arcana, Regrets, derives from the shapes of a crumpled photograph used by Francis Bacon for a portrait of Lucian Freud. The exhibition’s title comes from one of Johns’s characteristically evocative utterances: “One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least in the work.” Johns’s newest output continues to ally itself with the first bulbs of his luminous ascent to the highest reaches of American art some sixty years ago. And they keep burning.