Dance writer and historian Alastair Macaulay wrote on his Instagram “Jason Farago’s “New York Times” essay on Jasper Johns is sensationally good criticism: an ideal meeting of rich sensibility and keen scrutiny. And in today’s online edition it’s an ideal meeting of written criticism with highly sophisticated online design – the kind of venture that makes newspaper writing of great aesthetic importance.”
Posts like this demonstrate how the New York Times is conquering the digital realm and providing experiences that are unique to what can be said best in this forum.
Johns is 91 years old. Ever since the mid-1950s, when he painted an American flag just as it was, his pensive and poker-faced art has had a reputation (not entirely unearned) for self-containment. For withdrawal.
And in “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror,” the two-part retrospective of his life’s work currently at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he is being hailed again as brilliant …
… but stoic. A grandmaster of American art, all the grander for his reticence.
I love his reserve, though I get why some people find his art frosty.
Many of his paintings can come across, at first, as a closed circuit of intellectual puzzles.
But I want to show you my favorite Johns painting, one that first appears as impersonal as any other — and which, slowly, delivers a roundhouse of passion and pain.