Jasper Johns - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Bill T. Jones, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (acquired in 1998)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999

  • Literature

    Pepe Karmel, Jasper Johns: Drawing Over, exh. cat., Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 2010, p. 67 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I think that the picture isn't pre‐formed, I think it is formed as it is made; and might be anything.” Jasper Johns

    Executed in 1998, Jasper Johns’ Untitled (Red, Yellow, Blue) illustrates the artist’s expertise in both printmaking and painting. Johns began utilizing the printing press in 1960, later perfecting his process in the 1980s, thoughtfully preparing and reworking each plate to carefully impress his print along the sheet, revealing intricate yet shallow imagery.

    The present lot, originally in the collection of the legendary choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, consists of three printed panels on a single horizontal sheet, overlaid with muted blue-gray pigment, and features subtle hints of primary colors. Consistent with Johns’ frequent juxtaposition of language with visual information, the order in which the written colors appear in the title is intentionally misaligned with the order in which they appear in the composition. In the late 1990s, Johns began to illustrate impersonal and often cartoon-like illustrations, as exhibited by this work’s inclusion of geometric shapes, downward pointing arrows, and a detached arm. His disconnected imagery begs for further interpretation and meaning, such as understanding the arbitrary upwardly stretching arm as a hopeless hand reaching out for help. Johns' work acts as a means of communication, evoking personal expression or a dramatic conceptual dialogue between himself and his viewers. Instead, this work represents his interest in the layers of the artistic process, including the engraving of each plate, the pressing of each print, and the topical addition of acrylic pigment. As one of his sketchbook entries from the early 1960s appropriately states, “Take an object, do something to it, do something else to it” (Jasper Johns, notes from sketchbook A, p. 42, c. 1963-64; transcribed in Varnedoe and Christel Hollevoet, Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, p. 54).

  • Artist Biography

    Jasper Johns

    American • 1930

    Jasper Johns is a painter and printmaker who holds a foundational place in twentieth century art history. Quoting the evocative gestural brushstroke of the Abstract Expressionists, Johns represented common objects such as flags, targets, masks, maps and numbers: He sought to explore things "seen and not looked at, not examined" in pictorial form.  Drawing from common commercial and 'readymade' objects, such as newspaper clippings, Ballantine Ale and Savarin Coffee cans, Johns was a bridge to Pop, Dada and Conceptual art movements.

    Beyond the historical significance, each work by Johns is individually considered in sensuous form. A curiosity of medium led him to employ a range of materials from encaustic and commercial house paint to lithography, intaglio and lead relief.

    View More Works


Untitled (Red, Yellow, Blue)

signed and dated "J Johns '98" lower right; further signed and dated "J Johns '98" on the reverse
acrylic and graphite over intaglio on paper
image 3 1/4 x 7 1/4 in. (8.3 x 18.4 cm.)
sheet 9 5/8 x 12 1/2 in. (24.4 x 31.8 cm.)

Executed in 1998, this work will be recorded in the upcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $212,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018