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Jasper Johns

Cicada II

1981 Medium: Screenprint

1981
Medium: Screenprint
Sheet size: 24 x 20 inches

Frame size: 31 7/8 x 26 5/8 inches

Printer: The Artist with Simca Print Artists, Inc. 
Publisher: The Artist with Simca Print Artists, Inc.
Edition size: 50, plus proofs
Catalogue raisonné: ULAE 214
Signed, numbered, and dated in pencil, lower margin

 

Price Upon Request

1981 Medium: Screenprint

1981
Medium: Screenprint
Sheet size: 24 x 20 inches

Frame size: 31 7/8 x 26 5/8 inches

Printer: The Artist with Simca Print Artists, Inc. 
Publisher: The Artist with Simca Print Artists, Inc.
Edition size: 50, plus proofs
Catalogue raisonné: ULAE 214
Signed, numbered, and dated in pencil, lower margin

 

Price Upon Request

 

 

Description

Beginning in the 1950’s Jasper Johns made the subject of his artworks “things the mind already knows,” and became one of the most influential American artists of the post-war period. His controlled use of gesture marked a departure from Abstract Expressionism and presaged Conceptual art; his flags, lightbulbs, and beer cans anticipated Pop Art.

Johns developed the Cicada scheme of color and line in the late 1970s, and refined it through the first print of the subject made in collaboration with Simca Print Artists in New York in 1979. Cicada works feature primary colors at their centers that reverse into secondary colors at their edges, or vice versa. Should one fold opposite sides of the objects to touch, the crosshatched, colored lines at each edge would align. In 1981, Johns made two Cicada lithographs at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, and another editioned screenprint with Simca, from which he also made a small edition of six unique variations.

The effect printmaking had on Johns’s artistic practice is significant. Working in a variety of media allowed him to experience forms and content differently with each iteration of a concept. Through printmaking he could try ideas with increased ease.

Johns explained that the use of crosshatching had all the aspects of an idea that interested him: “literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of a complete lack of meaning,” but that it contained the possibilities in a material and technical sense to become emotionally interesting through variations in color and composition. In Cicada II, the central secondary colors transform into primary colors at its edges, given motion by frenzied repetitive lines, like the splitting skin of its namesake insect.

Featuring both newsprint and crosshatching motifs, Cicada II has a painterly quality achieved by layering additional screens over the same areas to reinforce the shapes and create the illusion of depth instead of the flat, sharp quality typical of screenprinting. Johns joked that trying to achieve depth of tone in a screenprint could be considered an abuse of the medium.

Cicada II and other Cicada prints are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Harvard Art Museums among many others.

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