Matthew Marks Gallery: Jasper Johns / Monotypes + Ken Price Drawings

You can still catch works by Jasper Johns and Ken Price at the Matthew Marks gallery, until tomorrow 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Matthew Marks offers Jasper Johns Monotypes, exhibition in his gallery at 522 West 22nd Street. The exhibition includes twenty-three monotypes created between 1983 and 2015, many on view for the first time.


A monotype is a unique print made by drawing on a hard surface (usually a metal plate), laying a sheet of paper on top, and running it through a press to transfer the image to the paper. Typically printed from a single application of ink, monotypes have an immediacy more commonly associated with drawing and painting than with printmaking. This immediacy, along with monotype’s unpredictability, may explain its special appeal for Johns.  


The earliest works in the exhibition employ a crosshatch pattern that first appeared in an untitled 1972 painting. Johns spent a decade exploring the motif further in painting, drawing, and a range of printmaking techniques before embarking on a group of monumental crosshatch monotypes, two of which are included here. Over eight feet wide, each sheet was too large for a single plate, so Johns drew on several Plexiglas plates and printed them in sections, passing the paper through the press multiple times. The result is an interlocking pattern that varies throughout the group.


Other works in the exhibition incorporate familiar subjects and motifs, including three Catenary monotypes from 2001 and a Numbersmonotype from 2013. As Johns said in a 1979 interview, “I like to repeat an image in another medium to observe the play between the two: the image and the medium.” Among the exhibition’s most recent works are three 2015 monotypes based on a photograph taken by Larry Burrows during the Vietnam War. The source image depicts a marine in despair after a failed mission, his posture echoing that of Lucian Freud in Johns’s recent Regrets series or the figure in Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.



You also catch Ken Price Drawings, at 523 West 24th Street location. The show features thirty-four drawings, all from the estate of the artist, most on view for the first time.

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“I’ve been drawing since I can remember,” Price has said. “I think sculptors learn to draw so that they can see what they’ve been visualizing.” His earliest works on paper explore forms and colors for his abstract sculptures, as seen in the Specimen drawings of the early 1960s. Price also drew impossible objects, like cups with a leaping frog or a cavorting nude for a handle. In his drawings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the imaginary spaces inhabited by these objects became more fully realized, as in Coffee Shop at the Chicago Art Institute (1971).

Price’s drawings provide a counterpoint to his sculptures while imagining a world they might inhabit. Two Sofas (1991), for example, shows an imaginary domestic interior with a view of anonymous downtown high-rises. A semi-fictional Los Angeles appears in several drawings, complete with clogged freeways and palm-studded skylines.


Nature became the dominant force in the drawings from the early 2000s, which feature erupting volcanoes and turbulent seas inspired by Price’s trips to Hawaii. After his 2002 move to Taos, New Mexico, Price focused more on the high-desert scenery of rocky outcroppings, dramatic sunsets, and isolated trailer homes. He also began depicting his sculptural forms in nature, re-imagining them as monumental figures in the primordial landscape. The effect is both comic and mysterious, like his sculptures themselves — embodying, in the words of Lucy Lippard, “a beautiful and rather horrible strangeness that appeals to both the mind and the senses.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a large-format catalogue with an essay by Jean-Pierre Criqui and over seventy drawings in full color, many reproduced actual size.

(All photos by Koko Jubilo/ Words by Tina Shabani)


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