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An Exhibition of Drawings by Jasper Johns Inaugurates The Menil Collection

  • Untitled, 1984
October 27, 2018
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On May 1, Rebecca Rabinow, the Director of the Menil Collection, announced that the Menil Drawing Institute will be open by the time November 2018 comes knocking on our calendars.

The Menil Drawing Institute will be the first freestanding facility built exclusively for the acquisition, exhibition, study, conservation and storage of modern and contemporary drawings.

As if the one-of-a-kind project was not exciting enough on its own, the 30,000-square-foot, $40 million building will be inaugurated with The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns, an exhibition that will span the legendary artist’s entire career.

Untitled, 1990
Jasper Johns – Untitled, 1990. Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper. 39 1/4 × 28 1/8 in. (99.7 × 71.4 cm). The Menil Collection, Houston, Bequest of David Whitney

The Importance of His Drawings

Thanks to the gifts of art from Menil Trustees Janie C. Lee and Louisa Stude Sarofim, and a bequest from David Whitney, Menil Drawing Institute will be one of the world’s largest repositories of Jasper Johns‘ drawings. It’s also projected to take on the role of the primary institution for viewing and studying this important aspect of the artist’s practice.

The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns will be the perfect indicator of just how much valuable work will be stored at the new institution.

With a name taken from a notebook entry Jasper Johns made in 1968, The Condition of Being Here shall trace both the chronology of the artist’s career and his method of working in motifs rather than in series.

Skin, 1965
Jasper Johns – Skin, 1965. Charcoal and oil on drafting paper. 22 x 34 in. (55.9 x 86.4 cm). Frame: 29 7/8 × 41 7/8 in. (75.9 × 106.4 cm). The Menil Collection, Houston, Promised gift from the Collection of Louisa Stude Sarofim.

What Visitors Can Expect to See Come November

Probably the most important living American artist by this point, Jasper Johns has been a leading advocate of drawing as an independent artistic genre for the entirety of his career, never seeing it as a mere a preparatory medium for other works like many of his colleagues did.

Johns’s drawings, at once simple and enigmatic, are above all a meditation on the world around him, a relentless investigation of what the artist calls “the condition of being here.”

The exhibition will include a total of 41 drawings made in graphite, ink, charcoal, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, water-soluble encaustic, pastel, powdered graphite, gouache and oil stick. The upcoming show will primarily reveal the artistic touch and process of this master draftsman.

Editors’ Tip: The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns

This catalogue brings together 41 of Johns’s drawings, spanning more than 60 years of his illustrious career and, beginning in 1954, the origin of his mature practice. It encompasses his most famous recurring motifs, including flags, targets, and numbers, and an essay by David Breslin.

Jasper Johns Art Exhibition at the Menil Drawing Institute

While it’ll be the first show to take place at the new Institute, The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns will be the third exhibition of works by Jasper Johns presented at the Menil Collection, following Jasper Johns: The Sculptures (1996) and Jasper Johns: Drawings (2003). Both of these were highly successful shows and there’s no reason to think the forthcoming one will do anything else but follow their lead.

The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns will take place between the 3rd of November 2018 and the 27th of January 2019, at the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, Texas.

Featured image: Jasper Johns – Untitled, 1984. Ink on plastic. Sheet: 28 3/4 × 36 1/4 in. (73 × 92.1 cm). The Menil Collection, Houston, Promised gift of Janie C. Lee. All images courtesy of the Menil Drawing Institute / © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. All images courtesy The Menil Collection.