#RespectYourElders: More than 60 years since his artwork first drew attention, Jasper Johns continues to make an impression on America. And he’s still not giving people answers about the meaning behind his work.
Johns (born 1930) is often regarded as “America’s most acclaimed living artist.” But he grew up in in a town he said didn’t appreciate art or artists: “In the place where I was a child, there were no artists and there was no art, so I really didn’t know what that meant.” That didn’t stop him from beginning to draw at the age of three — and he hasn’t stopped since.
An accomplished painter, sculptor and printmaker, Johns is best known for his 1954 painting, “Flag,” which he said was inspired by a dream about the American flag. Although he has created many works on the theme of the American flag, he never shares the details of that dream. In fact, he’s known to keep people guessing about the meaning behind all of his pieces — even friends he’s known for decades. A recent interview with The New York Times said, “…everyone agrees that certain topics reliably engage [Johns], such as gardening and cooking, but that attempts to discuss the meaning of his work with him will bring on instantaneous silence.”
Johns continues to create new works. His most recent collection, “Regrets,” premiered in 2014 at The Museum of Modern Art. It encompassed two paintings, 10 drawings and two prints.
Johns has also been honored many times. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts, an award created by the U.S. Congress, in 1990. And, he received the Presidential Medal Freedom in 2011 — the first painter or sculptor to do so since 1977. Although he keeps quiet about his philanthropy, he gives back to the artistic community often, as well. He focuses on supporting younger artists, and he plans to turn his 170-acre estate into an artists’ retreat.
Johns’ work is continuously sought after. His most expensive piece was reportedly sold for $110 million in 2010. And, museums continue to hold exhibitions of his work. The Broad, an art museum in Los Angeles, is currently showing a special exhibition, “Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth.” The exhibit features more than 120 of Johns’ paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings.
Read the full New York Times’ profile of Johns here.