“Most viewers will only see the show in one of two places,” he declared on the outset, including that he had felt that means even earlier than Covid-19 curtailed journey.
Then he talked about numbers. “The scale is tremendous,” he famous, tallying the sq. footage of the 2 museums for me. “The show is 19,000 square feet at the Whitney. Philadelphia is not quite as big.” He added that the mixed variety of works, which incorporates work, drawings and prints, exceeds 500 and that the Whitney has greater than Philadelphia “if you count an additional 50 items of ephemera.”
What concerning the “Mind/Mirror” duality posited by the present’s title and bifurcated construction? “In the end,” Rothkopf stated matter of factly, “that wasn’t to be the theme of the show.”
What is that theme? “For me, it was very important to make Jasper’s work feel alive,” he stated. “Older people may admire him and take for granted that he is among the greatest living artists, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true for younger viewers at the Whitney.”
The catalog for the present brazenly courts new audiences. In lieu of a well-recognized lineup of artwork historians, the contributors characterize a mixture of voices, some flattering, some decidedly not. For occasion, Ralph Lemon, a choreographer who’s Black, views Johns’s work via the eyes of his mom — one other South Carolina native — and concludes that it fails to mirror her expertise of the Jim Crow South. Johns, in response to Lemon, was “afforded the emphatic advantages of southern white primacy and Black segregation,” however his artwork stays blind to that privilege.
One might argue, on the contrary, that the profusion of double imagery in Johns’s work represents an act of social empathy, an identification with the Other. Tellingly, the duvet of the exhibition catalog is embossed with a white stick determine wielding a paintbrush. The again is embossed with a black stick determine. “That was Jasper’s idea,” Rothkopf stated, “and his only contribution to the design of the book.”