The National Gallery of Art, which is acquiring the extensive personal collection of artist Jasper Johns, will open an exhibit Sunday showing his working proofs as independent pieces of art for the first time.
"Editions with Additions: Working Proofs by Jasper Johns" includes 42 works on paper that show how Johns refined his technique and style over time. The small, two-room exhibit highlights his proofs from 1962 to 1997.
"I think you'll see a real shift in the complexity of the work," curator Ruth Fine said. "You're seeing, it seems to me, the evolution ... of one of the most fertile artistic minds of our time."
The museum announced in 2007 it would acquire about 1,700 proofs from Jasper Johns, making the gallery the largest institutional repository of his works. The collection includes almost all the memorable images associated with Johns from the postwar era — flags, targets, maps — and more recent compositions with references to works by earlier artists.
The artist's working proofs are prints on which Johns drew or painted additions during the working process. The collection on view includes etchings, lithographs and screenprints.
Among the proofs shown in the new exhibit are different versions of Johns' "The Seasons." In the fourth version, he cut apart used printing plates from past works to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle to create a new image, Fine said.
Some of the works show motifs and symbols Johns repeats over time, such as silhouettes of his artistic predecessors Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, paying homage to their work.
The piece, "Red, Yellow, Blue," includes a fingerprint mark left by the artist as he played with color. He was experimenting with making the color darker in that area, Fine said, but also incorporating his fingerprint.
Johns was born in Augusta, Ga., in 1930 and studied art at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York.
The show will be on view until April 2010.