Keeping up with the Johns

Jasper Johns is having a bit of a moment. In addition to being profiled in the December issue of Vogue, the artist also has a retrospective up at the SFMOMA and an exhibition of new work at Matthew Marks’ two L.A. galleries. For Johns, now 82, this will mark the first time he has premiered a major body of work in Los Angeles. After such a long career, this seems to speak more to the city’s newly cemented prominence in the art world rather than Johns’ particular whim.

The two separate exhibitions, respectively titled Number 0-9 and 5 Postcards and Recent Prints features multiple mediums- paintings, sculptures and prints. The show is segmented to make sense of the disjointed space- with the paintings and sculptures in the North Orange Street space and the prints in the Santa Monica Boulevard space, accesible through the alley. On entering the exhibition space, the first and most striking works are the Numbers pieces, not surprising, since Johns has used numbers as a motif in his works in the past. Numbers (0-9) is a set of twelve patina-ed bronze plaques hung together as grids. 5 Postcards is a series of paintings of that have quotidian content such as ladders, vases or a simple selection of colors. The colorful paintings, done in crayon and watercolor, stand in stark contrast to the dark bronze works. In the second gallery space the printed works bear iconic yet common symbols such as the American flag or a watch. The diptych Fragment of a Letter is done entirely in black intaglio giving it a mysterious, striking prescience. The show offers a interesting opportunity to see contemporary works by a historically important artist.

Jasper Johns runs at Matthew Marks Gallery 1062 North Orange Grove in Los Angeles through January 5th, 2013 (323) 654-1830, matthewmarks.com.

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