Topics in American Art since 1945

By Lawrence Alloway | Go to book overview

JASPER JOHNS' MAP

For the U.S. Pavilion at Expo, in Montreal in 1967, Jasper Johns painted a work called "Map (based on Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Airocean World)." It is an elaborate statement of themes developed in the last seventeen years by an artist whose work is neither realistic nor abstract. Johns' subject is pre-existing signs and systems of signs and this holds true for his paintings of targets, the Stars and Stripes, numbers, words and maps.

In the early 1960s he painted four maps, of which Max Kozloff observed that in them Johns was "playing with the notion of measurement, in which the locked-in diagrammatic 'in scale' dimensions of map images are contrasted with the virtually gratuitous dimensions of painterly gestures." The first map is a tiny picture belonging to Robert Rauschenberg, the second is a flurry of red, yellow and blue, the third is monochrome, and the fourth is a combination of both color schemes. The second disregards the state lines freely, but the third follows the arbitrary boundaries conscientiously. These maps are all of the United States, but the new one at the Modern is a world map and correspondingly larger. It measures 15 feet high and 30 feet long and is painted in triangular sections derived from Fuller.

The map's central point of reference is the North Pole, and the world is arranged around it in accordance with Fuller's definition of the Arctic as the shortest route between the 12 per cent of the world's population in the Americas and the 88 per cent who "dwell in the Asia-Europe‐ Africa quadrangle." Johns's version of it is densely painted in a mix of encaustic, pastel, charcoal and collage. Within an overall gunmetal-gray base color are place names stenciled in color (mainly, but not consistently, they radiate from the Pole) and bits of collage. These include a winter scene from a comic strip with "BRRRRR" in a speech balloon, an allusion not only to climate but to a 1960 painting by Andy Warhol.

In appearance the painting is ungainly, splayed jaggedly on the wall, taking its form from Fuller's triangulation. This is not, I think, a failure on Johns's part; on the contrary, it is a part of his move away from

____________________
SOURCE: From The Nation (November 22, 1971), 541-542.

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Topics in American Art since 1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Topics in American Art Since 1945 *
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 9
  • Introduction 11
  • Acknowledgments 13
  • Abstract Expressionism 15
  • The Biomorphic '40s 17
  • Melpomene and Graffiti - Adolph Gottlieb's Early Work 25
  • The American Sublime 31
  • Barnett Newman - The Stations of the Cross and the Subjects of the Artist 42
  • Jackson Pollock's Black Paintings 52
  • Jackson Pollock's "Psychoanalytic Drawings" 58
  • Willem De Kooning 62
  • The Sixties, I - Hard Edge and Systems 65
  • Leon Polk Smith 67
  • Systemic Painting 76
  • Serial Forms 92
  • Sol Lewitt 96
  • Agnes Martin - (with an Appendix) 100
  • Gesture into Form - The Later Paintings of Norman Bluhm 111
  • The Sixties, II - Pop Art 117
  • Pop Art - The Words 119
  • Jim Dine 123
  • Rauschenberg's Graphics 125
  • Jasper Johns' Map 136
  • Marilyn as Subject Matter 140
  • Roy Lichtenstein's Period Style 145
  • The Reuben Gallery - A Chronology 151
  • In Place 155
  • The Sixties, III - Problems of Representation 161
  • Hi-Way Culture - (with Notes on Alan D'Arcangelo) 163
  • Art as Likeness - (with a Note on Post-Pop Art) 171
  • George Segal 182
  • Photo-Realism 185
  • Art and Interface 193
  • Allan Kaprow, Two Views 195
  • Artists and Photographs 201
  • The Expanding and Disappearing Work of Art 207
  • Stolen - (with Arakawa: an Interview) 213
  • Radio City Music Hall 218
  • Robert Smithson's Development 221
  • Art Criticism and Society 237
  • Notes on Op Art 239
  • The Public Sculpture Problem 245
  • The Uses and Limits of Art Criticism 251
  • Index 271
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