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Jasper Johns: A Crisis in Criticism

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Author: Alvarez, Andrea
Advisor: Palermo, Charles, 1965-
Committee Members: Wallach, Alan, 1942-; Scott, Victoria H.; Dawson, Melanie, 1967-
Issued Date: 2009-05-16
Subjects: Jasper Johns
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/1254
Description: Scholarship on Jasper Johns since the 1960s has focused primarily on attempting to fit the artist into the pre-existing styles in art history. The aim of this paper is to find a solution for the problem created by Jasper Johns himself. The problem is quite simple: almost every critic who has written about Johns has pigeonholed him into a different style category, and each critic has provided ample support for these claims. Because Johns did not provide any sort of instruction with which to look at his art, we have no way of knowing which theory is superior to the other. We are left, then, with various contradicting theories and nothing to indicate their validity or invalidity. The solution I propose is perhaps not so simple, but with it, it seems possible to reconcile the distinct theories. I claim that Johns is a postmodern artist who creates art that is not necessarily postmodern. Rather, because of the postmodern attitude imparted on them by their creator, the works have a property of being open to interpretation. On this approach, any theorist can support their own theory, all the while not undermining other theories. Taking this agnostic approach to Jasper Johns' art provides a solution to what Leo Steinberg called a "crisis in criticism,"� after Johns' 1958 debut in New York.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in Art and Art History

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