29 April 2015

Jasper Johns and the critics

Jasper Johns' involvement with art critics and their writings began with a letter reacting to a review in the New York Times in 1959, which concluded that the possibilities of the medium of painting were exhausted. His reply: "Well, thank God, art tends to be less what critics write than what artists make."

That same year he first made a drawing and sculpture entitled The Critic Smiles; in 1969 he produced an edition in lead relief -
Sheet lead, gold casting, tin plating; 23x17" (via)
Replacing the bristles with teeth raises the question: can critics' urbane smiles be real? Other works, too, seem to suggest that critics occasionally neglect what Johns termed "the business of the eye".

Johns said that The Critic Sees was a response to a critic who jabbered at him incessantly. It's been interpreted as a critique of the impossibility of thought without language.

In 1978 he described these works to art critic Peter Fuller as cartoons. Fuller replied: "Exactly. They're the kind of ideas a good cartoonist has a dozen times a week." "Of course. I hope so," said Johns.

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