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Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
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Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
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About the item

Jasper Johns (b. 1930)\n0 Through 9\nsigned and dated 'J. Johns '61' (on the reverse)\noil on canvas\n54 x 41½ in. (137.1 x 105.4 cm.)\nPainted in 1961.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Throughout the summer of 1961 Johns systematically read Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus paying close attention to the Viennese philosopher's investigation of language and the ordering of thoughts and their influence on meaning. In Wittgenstein, Johns found a concern for logic combined with a deep interest in moments and incidents when logic clearly breaks down that echoed his own. Inspired by his reading of Wittgenstein, Johns began to systematically explore the ultimate illogicality of logic in his own paintings. 0 Through 9 is one of Johns' most famous painterly solutions to these issues. One of a celebrated series of five different paintings that superimpose the ten Arabic numerals into a single semi-abstract image which Johns painted in 1961 it clearly illustrates and exposes the shadowy borderline in pictorial language between the figurative and the abstract.

Each work from this series was executed on a 54 x 45 in. canvas, and explores through a sequence of differing painterly styles the same theme of logical and numerical progression. One painting, now in the Hirshhorn Museum, is highlighted with color and another now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of Art is similarly highlighted using muted color. The Tate Gallery's highly publicized version was executed solely in vibrant color while the other version (in a private collection) highlights the use of color through painted versions of the color's names. This version, executed in a variety of grays with flashes of brilliant color, is the most painterly version of the series.

Johns' use of numbers as a subject matter for his painting clearly echoes his interest in the paradoxical use of systems and conventions as a means to generate painterly freedom. Flags, targets, numbers, letters are " things the mind already knows", Johns once declared and as such they therefore allow what he described as "room to work on other levels." "I'm interested in things which suggest the world rather than suggest the personality." Johns maintained, " I'm interested in things which suggest things which are rather than in judgements. The most conventional things, the most ordinary things - it seems to me that those things can be dealt with without having to judge them; they seem to me to exist as clear facts not involving hierarchy" (Jasper Johns cited in R. Francis, Jasper Johns, New York, 1984, p. 21).

John's use of conventional things such as flags or targets and his use of non-hierarchical systems such as the alphabet or numbers formed the basic subject matter of his art during the 1950s. By superimposing each number on top of the other in 0 Through 9 however, Johns has developed his painterly subversion of these progressive systems further and to the point where the logical progression of the numbers 0 to 9 becomes self-defeating. At the same time, the logical sequence of numbers - one on top of the other - has become a visual as well as an historical record of Johns' painterly process. Beginning with the number '0' and working through the sequence to the point where the painting of number "9" completes the painting, this process allows Johns to build up the painting through a series of progressive and pre-determined stages. At each stage, Johns is forced to make a certain number of additions and yet at the same time is free - due to the increasing abstraction of the image - to make a number of aesthetic decisions of his own. The process of painting has become an interactive game between the artist and his subject matter, and in the end, it is the nature of the game and of the process of painting that the finished work emphasises rather than its systematic structure or beginnings. Through the process of being made the painting becomes something more than the sum of its parts. It becomes not only a visual record of its own creation but also an enigma, a manifestation of the mystery of art and the act of creation.

Using only the subtlest variations of gray and through something as simple as the super-imposition of numbers one on top of the other Johns' has created in 0 Through 9 an image that shimmers with life, with contradiction and with inconsistency. Its myriad of forms and shapes seemingly pointing to the infinite variety of possibility within even the most mundane of things that we take for granted. In this way 0 through 9 clearly lives up to Johns' hope that " a painting should include more experience than simply intended statement. I personally would like to keep painting in a state of shunning statement, so that one is left with the fact that one can experience individually as one pleases. That is not to focus the attention in one way. But to leave the situation as a kind of actual thing, so that experience of it is variable." (Jasper Johns : Interview April 1965, reproduced in D. Sylvester, Interviews with American Artists, London, 2002, p. 170).

Fig. 1 Jasper Johns, O Through 9, 1961

Private collection

c Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Fig. 2 Jasper Johns, 0 Through 9, 1961

Tate Gallery, London

c Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Fig. 3 Charles Demuth, The Figure 5 in Gold, 1928

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig. 4 Jasper Johns, 0 Through 9, 1961

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Joseph Hirshhorn, 1966

c Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Fig. 5 Jasper Johns, 0 Through 9, 1961

Private collection

c Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Fig. 6 Installation photograph of Jasper Johns featuring 0 Through 9 at the Jewish Museum, 1964

Photograph by Ambur Hiken

c The Jewish Museum, New York/Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

title

Jasper Johns (b. 1930)

medium

Oil on canvas

prelot

Property from the Collection of the Israel Phoenix Assurance Company

signed

Signed and dated 'J. Johns '61' (on the reverse)

exhibited

New York, The Jewish Museum, Jasper Johns, February-April 1964, no. 53.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Cologne, Museum Ludwig; Paris, Center National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne; London, Hayward Gallery; Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jasper Johns, October 1977-December 1978, no. 77 (illustrated).

South Hadley, MA, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, An Architect's Eye: Selections from the Graham Gund Collection, September-November 1985, p. 26, no. 13 (illustrated).

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Collects: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, October 1986-February 1987, p. 61, no. 41 (illustrated).

dimensions

54 x 41½ in. (137.1 x 105.4 cm.)

provenance

Galerie Rive Droite, Paris

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Titelman, Boca Raton

Mr. and Mrs. S. I. Newhouse, Jr., New York

Barbara Divver Fine Art, New York

Graham Gund Collection, Boston

Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 18 November 1992, lot 38

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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