Jasper Johns’ Flag (Moratorium), (1969)

Jasper Johns whose art seems so remote from the themes of the Renaissance continues the traditions. The critic Richard Dorment wrote in 2004: "If the paintings, drawings and prints of the past two decades are often baffling, that is because their imagery is highly personal. These pictures need to be interpreted because they describe the way Johns' mind works, the thought process itself."1 Johns' depiction of the creative process in his own mind is expressed in a highly original way, as in all great art, but it is still the same subject found in works by Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian and artists long before them too.

In this print we are helped on our way by the artist's inscription at the bottom, "painting with two balls", which, of course, has a double meaning: "this is a painting with two balls" and "I, a man, am painting it with two balls." Nevertheless, he places both actual balls in a vaginal-shaped opening thus making clear that this depiction of the creative process in his mind is androgynous.

The gap, though, is horizontal with scrawled pubic hair to the left as it would be. But why? The narrow gap, despite two balls, resembles only when horizontal a squinting eye. Johns expresses in a half-open, half-closed eye the same meaning that other artists express with one eye open and one closed: the exterior and interior vision of an artist. See other examples in Insight-Outsight.

Captions for image(s) above:

Johns, Flag (Moratorium), Lithograph (1969)

Click image to enlarge.

1. Dorment, "Fragments and Connections" (exh. review), The Daily Telegraph (UK), Aug. 4th, 2004, p. 17


Original Publication Date on EPPH: 04 Oct 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.