Johns is more than a painter
After establishing himself as a painter in the 1950s, Johns began making lithographs in 1960. Printmaking soon proved to be an ideal tool for an artist concerned with repetition and re-examination, providing Johns with a means to manipulate the motifs that informed his paintings over and over again. The resulting output of lithographs, etchings, screenprints, aquatints and intaglios has placed Johns alongside Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch as one of the most important and innovative printmakers of the 20th century. He has also used sculpture to question “things the mind already knows”, as he has put it, casting torches, lightbulbs, ale cans and objects from his studio in bronze, wittily reformulating everyday objects as precious works of art.
He has collaborated with some of the greatest artists, writers and composers of his generation
Soon after settling in New York in 1953, Johns formed a close circle of friends that included the choreographer Merce Cunningham, the composer John Cage, and the artist Robert Rauschenberg. The group met regularly to share ideas, and in 1963 they formed the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. Of his relationship with Johns, Rauschenberg recalled that “Jasper and I literally traded ideas. He would say, ‘I’ve got a terrific idea for you,’ and then I’d have to find one for him”.
In 1968 Johns designed the set for Merce Cunningham’s Walkaround Time using Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–23) for inspiration. The same year, he designed the costumes for another piece by Cunningham, Rainforest, while Andy Warhol designed the set. In 1976, Johns produced 33 etchings for a set of five texts by the Irish writer and poet Samuel Beckett in a publication they titled Foirades/Fizzles.