… In its sheer variety and vitality, this exhibition is optimistic, and generous in spirit. It reaffirms Mr. Johns as, foremost, a painter’s painter and a working artist rather than an art historical subject. In it he revisits three or four previous series — extending, editing or recombining their motifs — and introduces two new ones that more than meet the Johnsian standards of mystery, suggestion and painterly allure.
(Roberta Smith, “Jasper Johns Stays Divinely Busy,” NYTimes, 2-26-19)
I’m drawn to the phrase “painter’s painter” (seen it before) and “painterly allure” (new to me) without knowing exactly what they mean but sort of what they mean or at least what they mean to me. I’ve also noted the term “Johnsian,” which I initially misread as “Johnsonian,” which sent me on a wild goose chase for quotations by Samuel Johnson about “mystery, suggestion,” etc., in painting. Having fetched up chastened on my Nicholsian rock of misunderstanding, I say here only that I’m attracted to Johns’s paintings, and in particular to what he does with stenciled-looking lettering. It has, for want of a better word, a painterly quality to it — brushy and overlapping and indistinct and modeled and luscious.
(c) 2019 JMN.