Wolf Prize Laureate in Arts 1986
“one of the leading and most influential figures of Pop Art in the world since its inception”.
Jasper Johns is among the world leaders of Pop Art since its origin. At the same time, his work is highly individual in subject as well as in style, and puts him in a place apart from the other artists of this important trend in modern art.
He studied at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in 1949. From the mid-1950’s, he was closely associated with the composer John Cage, the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.
They all aimed at the democratization of art, by using contemporary popular subjects, symbols, objects and materials. In this direction Johns created in 1954-55 new iconography, suited for the modern world; putting the object as a symbolic reflection of events or occurrences as a focus of his work, rather than painting a story or a scenery. In paintings like the “Flag”, the “Target” and the “Number”, Johns formed new symbols taken from our contemporary environment. This won him immediate recognition, and led to his first one-man show at the Leo Castelli Gallery of New York in 1958.
Using both the painting as well as the graphic techniques, Johns’ work helped in breaking the long traditional attitude to the artist’s “masterpiece” as a singular work of art. The Wolf Prize is given to Jasper Johns for his courageous attempts in creating modern icons, and for the manner and style these were presented.