What do artists Jasper Johns and Antony Gormley have in common? Not nationality – Johns was born in Georgia, grew up in South Carolina, and moved to New York City as fast as he could; Gormley was born in London and educated first at Cambridge then in travels throughout India and Sri Lanka. Not artistic style – Johns is associated with iconic symbols like the American flag, targets, and numbers; Gormley brings to mind life-sized bronze sculptures of the human body invading public space on street corners, rooftops, and seashores. Not professional circle – Johns formed tight bonds in the New York artistic community beginning in the ’50s with composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and artist Robert Rauschenberg; Gormley has yet to be grouped with a particular circle or movement, though he does come from a large family and is reportedly close to his siblings.
This summer, these two very different artists will find their work cohabiting at 21st and Q Streets. Each show is the artist’s first at the Phillips, highlights work on paper, and is on view June 2 through September 9, 2012. They will fill separate areas of the museum, but the Phillips is small enough that visitors will likely experience the exhibitions one after the other. Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme follows the artist’s printmaking over more than five decades, from experiments in lithography and intaglio to silkscreen and lead relief. Antony Gormley: Drawing Space introduces the artist’s drawings, which he often makes at night using odd materials like burnt chicory, prickly pear cactus juice, earth, and blood. In the Phillips spirit of conversation across time and place, it will be curious to discover what Johns and Gormley can teach us about each other, simply through their differences.