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Posted at 3:09 PM ET, 01/24/2007

Jasper Johns: A Sneak Peek

By Julia Beizer

The National Gallery of Art shakes off the winter doldrums this Sunday with the opening of a major exhibition on legendary artist Jasper Johns. Read on for some first impressions and a photo gallery of some of the works on display.

"Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965" traces the first decade of the artist's career, but don't call it a retrospective: the exhibit was never intended to be a comprehensive overview. Jeffrey Weiss, the exhibit's curator, said in yesterday's press preview that the point of the exhibition is to explore the artist's repeated use of certain motifs and techniques.

And repeated they are.

Targets, primary colors (and their stenciled names) and works with attached devices that helped scrape paint around the canvas show up throughout the show. With only a little bit of wall text, the exhibition makes this point: that Johns was an artist interested in examining and challenging artmaking conventions.

Tracing that point through the exhibition is a bit like a scavenger hunt. The artist's mind is on display in the 84 pieces and following his thought process is fascinating, especially because Johns is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His large-scale works -- mixtures of painting, collage and assorted objects -- are highlights of the show.

Casual art-lovers, beware: Don't go to the gallery expecting a greatest-hits performance. The exhibit is more like listening to all the recording sessions for a single album. It's a good album, for sure, but you won't be able to get the red, yellow, blue theme out of your head for days.

Want a sneak peek of the works on view? Check out our photo gallery. If you like what you see, go to the show! The three-dimensional works are so much better in person. Also, be sure to check out the museums page on Saturday morning for Post art critic Blake Gopnik's review.

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | January 24, 2007; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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