BEHIND THE SACRED AURA

JASPER JOHNS GIVES NOTHING AWAY, BUT HIS COOL, LOVELY MASTERY OF INDIRECTION FINALLY BECOMES CLAUSTROPHOBIC

Is there, or has there ever been, a modern American artist with a more peculiarly sacrosanct reputation than Jasper Johns? If so, none spring to mind. Johns' current retrospective of 225 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures at New York City's Museum of Modern Art has all the air of a cult event. This is not the fault of the curator, Kirk Varnedoe, who has done an exemplary job of hanging the show and, without resorting to the usual pseudo-philosophical guff that attends critical discussion of Johns, describing and analyzing his work in the catalog. Rather, it seems immovably built into the...

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