Three Flags

From Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror

Sept 24, 2021

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Three Flags

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Narrator: In Three Flags—as in the other works in this room—Johns pictures what he called a “thing that the mind already knows.” And yet the paintings themselves can be quite surprising due to the ways he approaches his subjects. For example, it’s always worth looking closely at the surfaces of the works.

Scott Rothkopf: He used his signature technique of encaustic and newspaper collage, which you can see if you look up close.

Narrator: Scott Rothkopf.

Scott Rothkopf: Encaustic was a pretty unusual medium when Johns started using it in the 1950s. It’s basically hot wax that the artist warms on a plate with pigment mixed in. Then, he would paint it onto the surface while it was still warm, and it would dry very quickly on the canvas in a way that congealed or froze the mark almost like a sculpture on the surface. This was really different than, say, painting with oil, where the brush strokes might mush into one another and take a long time to dry.

Narrator: Johns liked the way that this process recorded his activity as a painter, emphasizing the act of making—and not just the finished result.