new-york

Jasper Johns

Leo Castelli Gallery

The Jasper Johns curriculum of life and art is a series of double binds, but the ultimate nonchoice here is between death and madness. As the words in Racing Thoughts, 1983, warn (in French and German, “Beware, Falling Ice”), the glacier of Johns’ reserve is breaking up and uncovering an intense paranoia. Whereas formerly fragmentation was limited to the extremities of the body, now it is the center that will not hold. Breakup is most elaborated on in this canvas, which echoes a precedent, Mathias Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, ca. 1510–15—itself dispersed during the French Revolution and subsequently re-membered in a museum context. The phrases of the caveat are disjointed, begun on the right edge, finished on the left. Only half of a painted hinge shows on the left section, hinting that its twin must be under the right wing, which therefore would conceal, like the altarpiece, a third

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