The Broad’s newest special exhibition, featuring a comprehensive look at the work of Jasper Johns, has been in the making since before the museum was even open. When curators from London’s Royal Academy of Arts began putting together the show, they knew they would need to borrow key pieces from Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection, including an encaustic painting known as Untitled (1975), which was among the very first pieces the couple bought when they started amassing their contemporary art collection. Four years of collaboration later, Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth came to life.
The Broad’s will be the only staging of the exhibit in the U.S., and this version expands on the original London exhibit, with additional, rarely seen works, deemed too fragile to make the trans-Atlantic trip. In total, there are over 120 paintings, prints, and sculptures, reflecting 60 years of Johns’s work, and it’s the single largest exhibition of his work ever shown in California.
Each of the galleries is arranged around a theme rather than being organized chronologically, allowing visitors to see, side-by-side, how Johns iterates on repeating iconography and concepts over time. His 1961 Target, in bright primary colors, hangs next to a different version of the same design, rendered all in shades of white and gray. An entire room is filled with his paintings of the American flag, evolving from classic in appearance to repeating, color shifted, and, ultimately, his most explicitly political work, a posterized version created in protest of the Vietnam War.
When Johns started making art out of recognizable objects, symbols, and icons, he was taking a fresh look at what he described as “things we see every day, which go unstudied.” His career began when Abstract Expressionism was still the dominant trend in contemporary art, and he created work that went in a totally new direction, quickly inspiring a movement of artists that included Andy Warhol, John Baldessari, and Ed Ruscha.
The exhibit, which takes up the entire first floor of the museum’s gallery space, will be on view from February 10 to May 13, 2018. Visiting requires the purchase of a timed ticket, though general admission to the third floor galleries of the museum remains free. To accompany the show, the Broad has organized a series of live events and performances titled “Cross-Hatched,” which showcase how Johns’s visual art connected to the work of his friends and contemporaries, including John Cage, Frank O’Hara, and Merce Cunningham.
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