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Jasper Johns: Prints from the John and Maxine Belger Family Foundation

February 14 - March 28, 2004


Jasper Johns (born 1930) expanded our understanding of contemporary fine art printmaking. This collection of works, produced between 1960 and the present, explores this seminal artist's commitment toward his earliest Dadaist ideas as well as an anxious but clearly present humanism. The exhibition gathers together 60 prints from the Belger's collection of over 100 in a variety of print media, including intaglio, lithography and cast lead. The prints demonstrate not just John's vision but also the working relationships he developed with printers who collaborated with him in producing one of the most significant bodies of fine art prints in the last century. The exhibition at the University of Arizona Museum of Art was curated from the Belger Collection by Peter S. Briggs and will be on exhibit from February 14 through March 28, 2004. (right: Savarin, Universal Limited Art Editions,1977, lithograph: 17 aluminum plates, Twinrocker paper; ULAE, 45 1/2 x 34 1/2 inches, Bill Goldston, James V. Smith, Ed. 25/50)

John's pushes beyond the technical assumptions printmaking methods. He has exploited the use of commercial printing techniques such as offset lithography and has replaced the sheet of paper with sheets of lead that were then run through the press. These latter works undermine our expectations of the often-delicate relationship of print with paper and produce, instead, a work of dull gray metal with literal and metaphorical weight.

Among the highlights in the exhibition are lithographs done by Johns in the 1960s with the recently deceased master printmaker Robert Blackburn. These include, for example Target (1960), 0 through 9 (1960), and Painting with Two Balls I (1962). In addition the exhibition includes, 1st Etchings (1969), a suite of 13 intaglio prints produced by ULAE; Decoy (1971, lithograph with die cuts); The Dutch Wives (1978, silkscreen); Voices 2, a triptych (1982, lithographs), After Holbien (1994, lithograph), and Green Angel 2 (1997, intaglio).

Technical accomplishments in printmaking during the last half of the 20th century have made possible the production of fine art prints of exceptional quality with a seemingly limitless inventory of technique. Such advancements are the result, in large measure, of several pioneers who were able to combine artist, master printmaker and publisher into dynamic and unified creative endeavors. Tatyana Grosman, founder of ULAE, is one of the most important of these pioneers in printmaking and in the development of John's prints.

This exhibition explores in depth what has captivated many in John's prints: his genius in the use of line, and the characteristic elegance and resonance of his forms, from the most simple to the most complex. His exploration of shades of grays compels us to examine with him the visual and tactile qualities that can be extracted from one color. John's journey continues. And we are fortunate that through this exhibition we can catch a glimpse of his creative genius. (right: Target, Universal Limited Art Editions, 1960, lithograph: 1 stone, Japan paper, 22 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches, Robert Blackburn, Ed. 5/30, Collection of Belger Arts Center for Creative Studies. ©Belger Arts Center for Creative Studies)

The Belger Family Foundation, located in Kansas City, Missouri, has a unique mission in the art world. Their collection, focused on a few specific artists seeks to explore the creative process through the personal and artistic journey. Rather than focusing on selected masterpieces, the collection focuses on a large body of work by an individual artist. In addition to Jasper Johns, the Belger Family Foundation collects work by William Christenberry, Terry Winters, William Wiley, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Renee Stout, Robert Stackhouse and Terry Allen. In the Foundation's quest to explore the creative act, they created the Belger Arts Center for Creative Studies, also located in Kansas City.


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