May 15 ~† Impure Situations 50 Ideas That Can Change Your Life

"Sometimes I see it and then paint it. Often times I paint it and then see it. Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither." ~ Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns,target

Striving for purity of vision, recluse painter, sculptor, and printmaker Jasper Johns (1930-) was born on this day in Augusta, Georgia in the middle of the Great Depression. He decided early that he wanted to paint.

"People would say I was talented. I knew it was good to use one's talent, but I also knew I couldn't do that where I was--there weren't artists there--so I guess it was also a form of escape."

Johns received no formal training. A man of motifs, his Minimalist style celebrated images of flags, numbers, alphabets, and other themes taken from popular culture, what he described as things, "the mind already knows." His art urged viewers to rethink reality.

"The painting of a flag is always about a flag, but it is no more about a flag than it is about a brushstroke, or about a color or about the physicality of the paint," he said.

In 1954, in a bold move to start anew, he destroyed all the work he had done up to that point in his life. "Before, when anybody asked me what I did, I said I was going to become an artist. Finally, I decided I could be going to become an artist all my life. I decided to stop becoming and be an artist."

An adviser to the avant garde composer John Cage, Johns first solo exhibition was held in 1958. "It's simple, you just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this, and pretty soon you've got something," he explained.

The experimental artist created revolutionary art by pressing his own oiled features against paper and tracing the image with charcoal. In recent years, while the source of his tracings could no longer be identified, Johns continued to create rich and complex work.

"I think most of the power of painting comes through the manipulation of space," he said. "But I donít understand that."

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