New York

Jasper Johns, Untitled (detail), 2018, twenty-four drawings in ink on paper or plastic, each 11 1⁄2 × 8 1⁄2".

Jasper Johns

Matthew Marks Gallery | 522 West 22nd Street

Jasper Johns’s “Recent Paintings & Works on Paper” at Matthew Marks Gallery, featuring thirty-eight pieces made between 2012 and 2018, was simultaneously a tour de force and a last hurrah—an understated meditation on Johns’s vast artistic legacy that also seemed to reckon with the artist’s own mortality. (Johns is, after all, almost ninety years old.) Amid the shadows and subtle anxieties expressed in this show was Untitled, 2018, a suite of twenty-four small ink drawings hung in a well-lit backroom/sepulcher, each of which depicted a grinning skeleton. The bony figure looks like a bit of a dandy, an entertainer; sometimes he wields a cane and wears a jaunty little hat. Maybe the skeleton is a stand-in for the artist himself, a kind of mute song-and-dance man who has successfully played the role of cipher for decades, while, with a certain mischievous irony, conveying some pretension to

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