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  • Repetition is synonymous with Jasper Johns’s practice. Since the 1950s, Johns has constantly returned to serial motifs such as flags, maps, and the alphabet, intervening with degrees of variation. At the core of this exploration of sequence and seriality are numbers, a motif which Johns used as early as 1954: in Construction with Toy Piano, his earliest surviving work, a row of numbers is visible at the very top of the image. Fundamentally instinctive, counting denotes a basic principle of human development, with the 10-digit sequence a unifying premise for organised civilisation. As the artist has commented, his favourite subjects are those which ‘the mind already knows’ but which for this reason, it often overlooks. Like Johns’s works, numbers are also conceptual, each deriving meaning from their place within an infinite succession which only exists in theory.


    Initially considering the medium antiquated, Johns was persuaded to try lithography by his friend and fellow-artist Larry Rivers, who assured him that ‘prints help pay the rent.’ The semi-automatic process of printing is inherently reproducible, wherein images are no longer just created but also manufactured as an arrangement of counterparts. Denoting a subject-matter which has seriality as its basis, Number 5’s medium holds a significant part of its symbolic value, underpinning the series’ repeated exploration of language and symbols. Since 1960, when he first began printmaking, Johns has used variations of numerals more than any other subject, amounting to 150 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper.

     

    Jasper Johns working on Sculpt-metal Numbers for the New York State Theatre, Lincoln Centre, 1964. Image: Dan Budnik © Jasper Johns/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021
    • Literature

      Gemini G.E.L. 92
      Universal Limited Art Editions 49

    • 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

113

Figure 5, from Black Numeral Series (G. 92, U.L.A.E. 49)

1968
Lithograph in colours, on Zerkall Copperplate deluxe paper, with full margins.
I. 69.8 x 57 cm (27 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)
S. 93.2 x 75 cm (36 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 63/70 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles (with their blindstamp), framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£6,000 - 8,000 

Sold for £8,190

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 June 2021