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False Start II
lithograph in colors, on A. Millbourn and Co. paper, 1962, signed, dated and annotated 'II" in blue pencil, numbered 7/30 (there were also six artist's proofs), published by Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York, with their blindstamp, with full margins, in generally very good condition, framed
Image: 17 5/8 x 13 ¾ in. (448 x 349 mm.)
Sheet: 30 ½ x 22 5/8 in. (775 x 575 mm.)
Universal Limited Art Editions 10
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, 5 May-14 October 1984, no. 94 p. 147 and p. 88 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

In 1960, Tatyana Grosman of Universal Limited Art Editions left a lithographic stone with the painter Jasper Johns, hoping to persuade him to try his hand at printmaking. The result of this gamble was a vast and wide-ranging succession of lithographs, etchings, and silk­screens, which offer creative variations on Johns' paintings and artistic preoccupations. The canvas from which False Start I and II derive is aggressively executed with strokes of strong color vigorously brushed onto the ground. Stenciled names of colors are inten­tionally mismatched: for example, "WHITE" is stenciled in red on a yellow ground. It is a visually active intellectual puzzle that teases us with its bewildering confrontation between symbol and visual reality. Concerned with the relationship between knowing and seeing, the composition is as much about the naming of colors as about the visual sensation of them.
Johns achieves a similar visual and intellec­tual complexity in the lithograph, matching the painterly density of the work on canvas by using eleven stones - an unusually large number. The lithograph False Start I was printed in bright colors; False Start II, from the same set of stones, was printed in a scale of grays. In confining the palette to blacks and greys, the artist has added a bass note to the composition; and by varying the tonal strengths of different inks as they relate to the earlier print, has produced a truly virtuosic use of the lithographic medium. False Start I and II were the most technically ambitious works to come out John's early collaboration with Grosman and master printer Robert Blackburn, who gother supported this flurry of creative output at ULAE.
Both the False Start paintings and prints inject a new embrace of abstraction in Johns' work when compared with his more "representational" works of the 1950s based on conventional signs and symbols, especially flags, targets, and numbers. This loose web of strokes looks forward to the regularized mosa­ics of parallel hatchings in later prints such as Scent or the Usuyuki variations.

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