Follow the Crosshatch

Images of works by William Harper and Jasper Johns

Palms and crosshatching, found in William Harper’s necklace at left, are common themes in Jasper Johns’s work. (left) Nine Tantric Amulets for Jasper Johns by William Harper. Photo: Amy Wike (top right) Jasper Johns, Fragment of a Letter, 2010. Two Intaglios, 44 7/8 x 30 1/2 in. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. Courtesy ULAE © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY (bottom right) Jasper Johns, Usuyuki, 1981. Silkscreen, 29 x 46 3/4 in. Jasper Johns and Simca Print Artists, Inc. John and Maxine Belger Foundation

On a recent trip to the Renwick Gallery, I stumbled upon a piece from its permanent collection titled Nine Tantric Amulets for Jasper Johns by William Harper. The gallery presented no further explanation for the work, and I found myself wondering what the connection to Jasper Johns was for Harper.

The hand, a clear tantric reference, could also be a reference to Johns’s repeated use of palms in his prints. According to the Renwick’s website, the crosshatch pattern at the center of the necklace is a direct reference to Johns. Examples of his affinity for the pattern can be seen in Usuyuki, The Dutch Wives, and the background of Savarin, among other works currently on view in the Phillips exhibition.

Installation shot of Jasper Johns's After Holbein, Holbein the Younger Nobleman Holding a Lemur

(Left) Installation view of Johns’s variations on After Holbein, (right) the portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger on which Johns’s work at left is based.

Harper’s allusion to Jasper Johns perpetuates a common theme among artists of taking cues from art history, as Johns himself makes numerous art historical references in his work—take as one example his variations of After Holbein, based on a tracing of Portrait of a Young Nobleman Holding a Lemur by Hans Holbein the Younger. Generations of artists pay homage to those that came before them, and tracing these tributes makes for a fun, inter-museum scavenger hunt when visiting any city.

Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator

Dupont in Detail: Jasper Johns is Everywhere

It turns out Jasper Johns’s obsession with taking a single object and looking at it from every angle and variation is contagious. Thanks to the imagery in Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme, I’m noticing targets:

Images of things that look like targets

Seeing bulls-eyes in sewer lids, gates, bikes, and more.


Images of numbers found on houses and signs

Numbers on houses and street signs, especially when stenciled, remind me of Johns’s multiple 0–9 series.

and flags everywhere:

Images of things that look like flags

Is that a crosswalk, or a flag? Stairs, or stripes?

And these examples were collected in just half an hour of walking around the neighborhood with a camera. I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing echoes of the Jasper Johns exhibition long after it leaves the Phillips in September.

Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator

Jasper Johns at the Phillips and Abroad

Bill Goldston talks to visitors in the galleries

Bill Goldston talks to visitors in front of Johns’s work, Untitled (2011), on July 12, 2012. Photo: Benjamin Resine

In 1960, Jasper Johns was introduced to printmaking by Tatyana Grosman, who in 1957 founded Universal Limited Art Editions, a fine art publishing house in Long Island, New York. Grosman invited artists like Johns to her workshop to learn lithography. Master printer Bill Goldston met Johns there and collaborated with him on major works such as Decoy (1971) on view in the exhibition Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme at The Phillips Collection.

Goldston became the director of ULAE in 1982 and he continues to work with Johns and other artists. He considers Johns’s recent print Untitled (2011) a tour de force in etching: “John Lund [Johns’s master printer] told me that the whole thing is spit bite [a process in which an acid solution is painted directly on a prepared plate]. . . . You have to marvel at Jasper: there are 11 colors printed from only three plates. You print the multicolored blue plate, then the red and yellow plate, and finally the black plate. What you need is timing—you don’t want the blue plate or red plate to dry fully or else the black won’t print cleanly. . . . It is extraordinary that an artist possesses the technical foresight in etching something like this.”

Goldston, who spoke at the Phillips last night about his work with Johns, recently curated an exhibition of Johns prints at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in Brazil.