Jasper Johns

Butler Institute of American Art

The drawings and prints shown here—many of them either preparatory studies for or souvenir afterimages of the more famous, larger paintings—are vibrant with uninhibited gesture, at least in comparison to their grander versions. What seems clear is that Jasper Johns has let go in these works, as though it were alright to mug in front of one’s mirror, but not when one is playing Racine on the big stage. These almost convince me that Johns is at his best and most authentic when he is working in a small, intimate format. He seems relaxed with his motif, possessing it completely; in the paintings, the same motif is presented at arm’s length, in a deliberately, overly detached way. In these small works Johns floods the motif with feeling, swarms all over it. In the paintings such sense of contact and abandonment is forbidden; every detail—even the seemingly intense flourishes of paint—seems to

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