The Easel

5th October 2021

Jasper Johns

In contrast to last week’s piece on Johns, this one focuses on the art. Starting out straight after abstract expressionism, Johns wanted to make art about real things. Are his celebrated flags ‘things’, or symbols of an idea? Do his ‘numbers’ pictures express a pure idea or are they objects borrowed from commercial art? This duality is the admirable aspect of Johns’ work. Less clear is whether, at some point, his art lost its cleverness and became a production of ‘things’.

Judith Joy Ross’s timeless and empathetic portraits

Ross’s acclaimed portrait projects can be years long – members of Congress, people at Washington’s Vietnam memorial, Pennsylvania school pupils. They are mostly formal compositions, set in unremarkable locations. What makes them stand out is their emotional acuity, the ability to reveal a private self. Ross has that ability to connect with her subjects: “I know I’m being delusional. But I like to think I’m capturing the real thing.”

The Quietly Rebellious Art of Iranian Women and What We Can Learn From Them

The organisers of this New York show have a point – Western images of Iran often focus on women in black chadors, living seemingly downtrodden lives. This, and other, misconceptions about Iran, apparently have added impetus to that country’s contemporary art. Tehran’s art scene is flourishing and women artists are prominent participants. They are philosophical about the restrictions they work under: “in Iran absolutely nothing is black and white”.