New York

“Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns?”

Tony Shafrazi Gallery

The peculiar show “Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns?” which was “conceived by Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown,” as the press materials inform us, and was recently on view at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, was an art-world gambit requiring more backstory than any in recent memory. It starts in February 1974, when Shafrazi, then a thirty-year-old artist, defaced Picasso’s Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art, tagging the phrase KILL LIES ALL across the painting’s convulsing surface. (The subsequent arrest is further immortalized on the show’s announcement, which shows a stony Shafrazi in handcuffs flanked by cops.) He later defended his action by saying that he wanted to render Guernica “absolutely up-to-date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life.”

That spray painting equaled ballsy avant-gardism for Shafrazi was an equation that held. It was according to this logic that he opened his gallery in

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