Jasper Johns, Fragment of a Letter, 2009, bronze, 38 5/8 x 24 3/8 x 1/2".

Jasper Johns

Matthew Marks Gallery

Jasper Johns, Fragment of a Letter, 2009, bronze, 38 5/8 x 24 3/8 x 1/2".

Despite my effervescing anticipation, Jasper Johns’s “New Sculpture and Works on Paper” inspired but a cool response. This owed, no doubt, to the academicism that has crept into Johns’s work over several decades now—that is, if we think of academicism as the preservation of the model, the paradigm case, rather than its overthrow. But let me quickly add that even the most conservative of Johns’s works still overshadows the larger field of players.

My quasi detachment from these reliefs—they are much more reliefs than sculpture—is heightened by the memory of the blinding enthusiasm that greeted the original encaustic flags, targets, gridded numbers, and alphabets that, at midcentury, established the territory this new work still mines. Eventually, Johns began to include a more abstruse iconography in his work: jigsawlike shapes based on the sleeping armored soldier in

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