1949 New York City attends commercial art school as urged by his teachers in his native South Carolina (strong drawing skills as a young man).
Goes into army service ca. 1950–51 during Korean War.
After goes back in NY and befriends and works with Rauschenberg. Got to know each other while working on shop displays for Tiffany’s .
Work has an Ab Ex quality though his style exhibits more control rather than spontaneity.
Considered one of the greatest printmakers of his ear, also prolific painter and sculptor.
Uses a range of iconographic motifs including: flags, targets, numbers, ale can, and maps of the US.
Johns’ early style relevant to subsequent art movements:
Pop Art, Minimal Art, and Conceptual Art.
Flag. 1954–55 Encaustic*, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood (107.3 x 154 cm) Considering what you know about America at this time, what connotations could the American flag have? Explain your ideas in relation to the context of the work. Why do you think that the American flag would be considered a ‘pop’ item? * Encaustic – known as hot wax painting where beeswax is heated and has pigment added to it and the liquid/paste is applied to the surface.
Three Flags, 1958 encaustic on canvas; 30 7/8 x 45 x 5 in. Johns said that the imagery of the flag came to him in a dream and he felt compelled to use it as a motif within his work. The image of the flag derives from “things the mind already knows”, said Johns. Generally the flag is considered to be a flat object. In what ways is Johns changing this within this particular work? Other than Johns’ war background, what else might the flag represent? How might it represent different ideas to different people? Explain.
White Flag , 1955 Encaustic, oil, newsprint and charcoal on canvas (198.9 x 306.7cm) Johns said that art “has to be what you can’t avoid saying, not what you set out to say.” What do you think he meant by this? Justify your answer.
Target with Plaster Casts, 1955 encaustic on canvas with plaster casts 129.5 x 111.8 x 8.9cm If the American flag could be representative of Johns himself, American patriotism, McCarthyism, or even the Korean War what do you think that the target could represent and why? In what ways is this different that the more obviousness of the flag? What about the use of the various body parts?
Four Faces with Target, 1955 How does the target have notions of ambiguity? It has been said that the concentric circles of the target may distract rather than focus the viewer because of their shape and layering.
0 through 9 1961 Consider this work, in what ways does this work have an Ab Ex quality to it? In what ways is it different? What connotations do you think numbers have? Do you think that there is a universality to them? Why? How does this provide the work with a Pop Art philosophy?
from First Etchings, Second State [individual title unkown] 1967-9 Etching and drypoint on paper image: 82 x 120 mm on paper, print Johns said, “ne does the same thing two ways and can observe the differences and samenesses - the stress the image takes in different media.” Consider the medium being used between this work and the previous work. Do you think the medium changes the overall effect of the work? Explain your answers.
Map, 1961 Again, with Johns’ there is a sense that he is bridging a gaps between the personalised nature of Abstract Expressionism (especially the work of the action painters) and the universal accessibility of Pop Art. In what ways does this work seem to have these qualities?
Painted Bronze. 1960 Oil on bronze (14 x 20.3 x 12 cm) Willem de Kooning said Leo Castelli (gallery owner and dealer) that he "could sell anything. He could even sell beer cans." What sort of statement do you think Johns was possibly trying to make with the creation of this work? What sort of comment on American culture does this have? Keep this work in mind as we start to see this in the works of Oldenburg and Warhol.
He studied with former Bauhaus master Josef Albers. There that he metthe composer John Cage and the dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham.
Between 1949 and 1954, he introduced the mediums, materials, and motifs that have continued to occupy him. These included photography, made monoprints, and became involved in performance.
Paintings, sculptures, and drawings reflect his long-standing commitment to extracting materials and images from his immediate environment and recontextualising them for different meaning/effect.
Untitled (Night Blooming series), ca. 1951. Oil, tarmac and gravel on canvas, 209,6 x 97,5 cm. White Painting (Three Panel) 1951 painting oil on canvas 72 in. x 108 in. (182.88 cm x 274.32 cm) In what ways do these works have both an Ab Ex and Pop quality do them? Why do you think so? Which camp do you think they fall into more?
Canyon, 1959 Combine painting: oil, pencil, paper, fabric, metal, cardboard box, printed paper, printed reproductions, photograph, wood, paint tube, and mirror on canvas, with oil on bald eagle, string and pillow; 86 3/4 x 70 x 24 in. Rauschenberg called these works his ‘combines’, a term he made up. It’s obvious why he called them that, but what meaning do you think they have? Why?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art said that, “Rauschenberg reinvented collage, changing it from its role as a medium that presses commonplace materials to serve illusion into something very different: a process that undermines both illusion and the idea that a work of art has unitary meaning.” What do you think about this? Do you think that Rauschenberg is successful in the undermining process? Why? Monogram ,1955-9, Freestanding combine 42 x64 x 64 1/2 in
Bed 1955 Combine painting 6'2" x 31 1/2" x 6 1/2" Identify and describe what you see here. What meanings are attached to this type of work? What makes you think so? Rauschenberg said, "Painting relates to both art and life. . . .I try to act in that gap between the two.“ What do you think he meant by this? Why? How have you seen this in other art works that we have seen so far this year?
Brace ,1962 Oil and silkscreen ink on canvas 152.4 x 152.4 cm In what ways does this work seem to show a bridge between Ab Ex and what you know about Pop? Why do you think so? What sorts of meaning do you think can be taken from a work like this?
What sorts of images does Rauschenberg use within the collage/combine work? How do these fit within the context that Rauschenberg is working? Consider both the artistic and historio-political contexts when addressing this question.
erased de kooning drawing , 1953 "the simultaneous unmaking of one work and the creation of another" In an interview with art critic Calvin Tomkins, Rauschenberg said: "I had been working for some time at erasing, with the idea that I wanted to create a work of art by that method. Not just by deleting certain lines, you understand, but by erasing the whole thing. Using my own work wasn't satisfactory . . . I realized that it had to be something by someone who everybody agreed was great, and the most logical person for that was de Kooning. . . . finally he gave me a drawing, and I took it home. It wasn't easy, by any means. The drawing was done with a hard line, and it was greasy too, so I had to work very hard on it, using every sort of eraser. But in the end it really worked. I liked the result. I felt it was a legitimate work of art, created by the technique of erasing."
Portrait of Iris Clert, 1961 What sort of object is this? Do you think we can call this art? How is Rauschenberg challenging traditional art making practices/styles? How does this totally break free from the American tradition that was set up by the Ab Ex artists and create a path for the future Pop artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, or Oldenburg?
1984 Rauschenberg (art director) for Speaking in Tongues performed by Talking Heads Here is Rauscheberg’s totally succumbing to Pop culture.