NARRATOR: Jasper Johns is famously quoted for saying, “Take an object, do something to it, do something else to it.” This process of repetition characterizes the work of his entire career. Printmaking, in particular, has offered the artist a way to create countless permutations of one theme.
This print re-examines a painting Johns made in 1960, called Painting with Two Balls. The original canvas was covered with colorful, expressionistic brushstrokes. Two ball bearings lodged in a crevice parodied the macho culture of Abstract Expressionism.
Here, Johns retains the powerful, gestural lines, but much of the image is taken up by various shades of gray—which Johns likes because, in his words, it avoids the “drama” of color. He discussed his use of gray in a 2007 interview.
JASPERJOHNS: I think I would have thought of it as a reality being stressed. That in a sense, the work would be drained of whatever excitement color afforded, and you would be left with what I think I must have thought of as reality, at that time.