On Monday Charles and I hiked down to the National Gallery of Art. The weather was cold and breezy, but my new wool winter coat and rabbit scarf kept me toasty. We arrived with no real idea of what we wanted to see or what the current exhibits were on offer because we knew there is always something good to see.
We strode into the building and went straight into an exhibit of Jasper Johns working prints. This was a selection from the newly acquired 1700+ working and test prints from Jasper Johns himself. I love these kinds of exhibits because they give insights into the thought processes and experiments that resulted in the final pieces - in this case lithographs.
I knew the name Jasper Johns but before this exhibit I couldn't have told you what he did. I've since learned that he came to fame for his painting Flag (inset above). The exhibit focused on the working and test prints for his many lithographs including After Holbein, Target with Four Faces, Usuyuki, Seasons and more. I had never seen any of these pieces! My mind was blown.
There was one print that I was completely taken with - "Alphabet." This was part of Johns experimentation for a piece ultimately titled as Grey Alphabets, 1960. I was transfixed by the pattern repetition of the letters, the shades of grey, the complexity of the piece and its overall rhythm. It is the kind of picture that I could never tire of looking at and learning its nuances. There and then I knew I wanted this painting.
(The small thumbnail image here is a pathetic introduction to this work. I'm almost ashamed to post it. At this resolution it looks like a small sheet of paper with grey smudges all over it. To even begin to appreciate this 38 3/8 x 27 7/8 inch painting you must view it in large size in a new browser.)
Sadly, the museum didn't have a print for sale in the gift shop. When I got home I couldn't find it for sale on any online store. There was only one thing to do. I decided I was going to make one for myself. Oh yes, I'm going to make my own Grey Alphabets, 1960.