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

Color Numeral Series (ULAE 59-68)

Details
Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
Color Numeral Series (ULAE 59-68)
the complete set of ten lithographs in colors, 1969, on Arjomari, each signed and dated in color pencils, each annotated 'A.P. III' (one of 11 artist's proof sets, the edition was 40), published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, each framed
each image: 27 x 21 in. (686 x 533 mm.)
each sheet: 38 x 31 in. (965 x 787 mm.) (10)
Provenance
Acquired by the present owner, 1992
Literature
R. Field, The Prints of Jasper Johns, 1960-1993: A Catalogue Raisonné, West Islip, 1994, nos. 59-68 (another set from the edition illustrated; Numerals 1, 4, 5 and 7 illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jasper Johns, Prints 1960-1970. April-June 1970, nos. 104-113 (another set from the edition exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Jasper Johns, A Print Retrospective, May-August 1986, pp. 67 and 71 (another set from the edition exhibited; Numerals 1 and 7 illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Jasper Johns' Color Numerals Series--a set of ten lithographs in colors executed in 1969--is arguably his most visually arresting exploration of the numeral subject in printed form. In his earliest prints from the 1960s, Johns' subjects included readymade icons such as targets, coat hangers, flags and numerals, as well as lithographic impressions of his own hand. Johns masterfully utilizes the unique properties of lithography in these early efforts, combining the immediacy of drawing on the lithographic stone with the ability to continually rework the image or even recycle the image into the next composition.

Reworking a series of motifs is particularly suited to printmaking, which naturally lends itself to exploring variations. In his numeral prints of the 1960s, Johns manipulated the representation of the figures using order--the numerals were either presented consecutively or layered into a single image. Color was another important variable, whether executed in black and grey, in order of the colors of the rainbow, or combinations of primary and secondary colors as with Color Numeral Series.

The typeface utilized by Johns in Color Numeral Series is not clearly established: it is reminiscent of old-style numerals, yet there is also a certain ambiguity in the design of the numerical figures. It is unclear whether Johns has employed a readymade font, or if the design of the typeface is an additional element of his artistic creation, and thereby a further step towards a re-interpretation of the 'given' nature of his subject. The subtle insertion of the Mona Lisa in Figure 7 is another mysterious element. Positioning Da Vinci's ubiquitous 16th century portrait within the numeral 7 suggests a parallel between those images as readymade icons. Perhaps the numeral is as universally recognizable and thought-provoking to a 20th century audience as an art historical reference.

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