NEW YORK – After twenty years as a private art dealer, CRAIG F. STARR ASSOCIATES is opening a public gallery space at 5 East 73rd Street in Manhattan. The inaugural show, Jasper Johns Numbers, will open November 9, 2004. The show will include paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, and mixed-media pieces.
Jasper Johns first started working with the numbers motif in the late 1950s and continued to explore this subject many times in the course of his varied career. Working within the confines of the ten Arabic numerals, Johns’ Numbers works are anything but limited. This exhibition features examples of each of Johns’ four approaches to this subject - single figures, the 0-9 numerical sequence, the arrangement of numbers in a grid, and the overlapping Zero Through Nine images.
Emerging from the dominant movement in Post War art, Abstract Expressionism, Johns’ work proposed a new engagement with abstraction, predicated on a heightened internal tension within the work, as opposed to the expression of the artist’s emotional state. With his friend, Robert Rauschenberg, Johns offered an alternative trajectory of modern art by exploring the achievement of Marcel Duchamp, the cognitive over the emotive. This grounding ushered in several movements in the 1960’s including Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual art.
Numbers, like other motifs from Johns’ early period, such as targets and flags, are the signs of our common culture. Of interest to Johns was their status as things that are looked at, but not examined. By dislocating the numbers from their context as signifiers of quantity or time, Johns creates a new meaning for them. In painting numbers, Johns achieves both a non-illusionist representation and also an abstraction, as numbers are figures that represent an abstract relationship between symbol and idea. The number does not stand alone on the surface, to be read only as its representative signifier, but is embedded in surrounding strokes and marks that declare it a work of art. The inherent ambiguity between the image of an object and the object itself allowed Johns to introduce content into the compressed space of the flat picture plane. These tensions between representation and abstraction, subject and object, figure and ground, amplify the vitality of these images.