Before Lana Del Rey, Jasper Johns Gave Us A True Slice of Americana

As a native of Georgia and longtime resident of South Carolina, Jasper Johns was well-versed in the archetype of your average American. His artistic leanings found him in something of a cultural vacuum considering his location as a young adolescent. Ultimately, he would head to New York City to further explore the true meaning of art and being an artist.

Johns
Johns

After attending the Parsons School of Design for a time in 1949, Johns served military time during the Korean War from 1952 to 1953. He moved back to New York upon leaving the war. In 1954, Johns fell in love with fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg, another Southern boy (from Texas) and Neo-Dadaist. The alliance with Rauschenberg proved beneficial from a business standpoint, too, as gallery owner Leo Castelli (a famed art dealer in the pop art and contemporary scene) became interested in Johns’ work upon seeing it while at Rauschenberg’s studio.

The U.S. as seen by Johns
The U.S. as seen by Johns

Johns’ most famous–and arguably most simplistic–work, “Flag” was first produced in 1954, and would set the Neo-Dadaist movement further into the mainstream consciousness. At his first solo show, the MoMA purchased four of his works and continued to be an enthusiastic champion of his paintings throughout his career.

"Flag"
“Flag”

Bringing us an almost absurdist view of Americana, Johns continues to paint in his home in Connecticut. His work is frequently valued by collectors in the millions, a rare feat for a living artist. Famous owners of a genuine Jasper Johns have included record label mogul David Geffen, and, perhaps one day, Lana Del Rey.