Course Description

Jasper Johns’ (b. 1930) iconic images of the American flag, numbers and targets changed the course of contemporary art, returning the making of representational images to contemporary American painting after years of dominance by abstract art. His deadpan rendering of banal subjects such as maps and ale cans, “things the mind already knows”, coupled with his painterly technique raised more questions than they answered, signaling a shift from the heroic stance of the Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to one of neutrality, withdrawal and ambiguity suggesting that multiple interpretations of his work are possible. Along with Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008), Johns’ work serves as a bridge between the Abstract Expressionist style of the late 1940s and early 50s, to the rise of Pop Art in the early 60s.

Johns’ later work became increasingly self-referential and autobiographical, simultaneously quoting and appropriating images from artists as diverse as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, European Surrealism, Matthias Grunewald and American 19th century trompe l’oeil painting in an accumulative, additive approach that invites viewers to construct and interpret connections between objects and signs depicted and/or suggested in the works.

Inspired by the special exhibition Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror, a major retrospective of Johns’ work so comprehensive that it is split between two venues simultaneously (the Philadelphia Museum of Art and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art through February 13, 2022), this course will consider the body of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints of the 91-year-old Johns, placing it within the larger context of post-World War II art, comparing and contrasting it with works by Rauschenberg, the enfant terrible of contemporary art whose mixed media pieces he called combines operate in “the gap between art and life,” the Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, Pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the Minimalist sculptors Donald Judd and Carl Andre, and the Conceptual art of Sol Lewitt.


  • Online registration closes at 6 p.m. one day before the start of the class, unless noted on individual sections.
  • Late registration is welcome! Please contact SMU CAPE at 214-768-2273 for assistance.
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