Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
Jasper Johns (b. 1930)

Untitled (Coca-Cola)

Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
Untitled (Coca-Cola)
signed and dated 'J Johns '63' (lower right)
paper collage, watercolor, oil and crayon on paper
43¼ x 31 in. (109.9 x 78.7 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Leon Kraushar, Lawrence, Long Island
Karl Ströher, Darmstadt, acquired from the above, 1968
Estate of Ursula Ströher; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 17 November 1998, lot 20
P. Plagens, "The Possibilities of Drawing," Artforum, October 1969, p. 54 (illustrated)
Karl Ströher, Sammler und Sammlung, Darmstadt, 1982, p. 126, no. 255 (illustrated in color)
Greensboro, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Art on Paper, 1968, no. 51
Munich, Neue Pinakothek and Haus der Kunst, and Hamburg, Kunstverein, Sammlung 1968 neunzehnhundertachtundsechzig Karl Ströher, June-October 1968, no. 58
Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie; Düsseldorf, Städtisches Kunsthalle, and Bern, Kunsthalle, Sammlung 1968 neunzehnhundertachtundsechzig Karl Ströher, March-September 1969, no. 24 (illustrated)
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Bildnerische Ausdrucksformen, 1960-1970: Sammlung Karl Ströher, 1970, p. 177 (illustrated in color)

Lot Essay

Executed using a wide variety of media and techniques, Untitled (Coca-Cola) is an exploration of the art of painting that addresses many of the intellectual problems regarding the language of the medium which Johns was attempting to systematically deconstruct at this time.

As early as 1957 critics had drawn a connection between Duchamp's ready-mades and Johns' sculptures and paintings which they labelled "Neo-Dada". It was their use of this term that actually prompted Johns to investigate Duchamp and Dada whose work had hitherto been largely unknown to him. Johns' discovery of Duchamp was a revelation and affirmed for him his commitment to exploring the eye's relation to the mind through the use of a visual medium. Johns developed an increasingly systematic approach to his own work, even beginning to keep notes very much in the manner of Duchamp's notes for The Large Glass.

Untitled (Coca-Cola) is a work that relates closely to a number of important paintings of the period, most notably Studies for Skin and M of 1962 (a work whose title may well be an obscured homage to Marcel Duchamp). As in M , Untitled (Coca-Cola) displays numerous pictorial techniques. A variety of paints have been sprayed, pressed and stamped onto the surface of the painting and the traditional method of using a brush has been translated into a diagram for a quasi-Duchampian mechanical device that he had actually employed in M; the brush is fixed to a wire and suspended from the top of the painting. Untitled (Coca-Cola) is a diagrammatic solution to a problem Johns' had outlined for himself in a sketchbook note of 1963, writing, "Find ways to apply make paint with simple movements of objects - the hand, a board, feather, string, sponge, rag, shaped tools, comb, (and move the canvas against paint-smeared objects.) How (What ) can this be used to mean if it were language? In what ways can one intend to use them."

Exploring many levels, including notions of the simultaneous presence and absence of the artist who created the work, (through its incorporation of the pressed hand print) as well asking questions about the nature of our understanding of reality and of representation (through its almost "Pop art" use of a ready-made Coca-Cola sign), Untitled (Coca-Cola) is a remarkable painterly response to the problems Johns was posing himself at this vital point in his career.

Fig. 1 Jasper Johns, M, 1962, oil on canvas with objects, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo


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