False Start (1959) by Jasper Johns

False Start - Jasper Johns - 1959

Artwork Information

TitleFalse Start
ArtistJasper Johns
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions137.2 x 170.8 cm
Art MovementAbstract Expressionism
Current LocationPrivate Collection

About False Start

“False Start,” an extraordinary oil on canvas by artist Jasper Johns, dates back to 1959. This piece is an important work within the abstract expressionist movement, measuring 137.2 x 170.8 centimeters. Currently, the artwork belongs to a private collection. Therefore, it remains accessible primarily through reproductions and scholarly analysis rather than public display.

The artwork is a vibrant composition that juxtaposes chaotic brushstrokes with stenciled words of various colors. The canvas is alive with a flurry of reds, blues, oranges, and yellows that are interrupted but not contained by the stark text spelling out the names of the colors themselves. Johns plays with the dichotomy of word and image, challenging the viewer’s expectations and perceptions of color and representation. The inclusion of the words seems almost paradoxical, given their systematic arrangement counterpoises the free, gestural quality of the paint. The names of the colors splashed across the canvas – “RED,” “YELLOW,” “ORANGE,” “BLUE,” – do not always correspond with the paint they overlay, creating a dissonance that invites contemplation on the relationship between language, colors, and the meaning we ascribe to them. Through such a dynamic and visually arresting tableau, Johns adds a conceptual depth to the otherwise instinctual expressions of the abstract expressionist movement.

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