The bridge-builder's catenary curve is the motif that unites the paintings and works on paper and plastic that Jasper Johns made between 1997 and 2003, all gathered together in this book.
Johns, often misleadingly described as a Pop Artist (he's much more complex), came to prominence in the mid-1950s with pictures of flags, targets and numerals. Now the recurrent images include galaxies and an old family photograph, as if his position in time and space - his mortality - is paramount.
The paintings are predominantly grey, but they are a clinching argument for why galleries need natural light, as the greys are highly nuanced and flickers of colour emerge when the light is right. The catenary is an actual piece of string suspended in front of the canvas but may also be a painted shadow or an imprint in the encaustic surface, as Johns plays once more with the real and the represented.
He has always made paintings that are things not illusions, and the hinged timber battens that frame the canvas and support the string have Rietveld's workmanlike approach to carpentry - nothing fancy.
These grave, rather melancholy works retain much of their subtlety in reproduction and they are beautifully presented in Steidl's book.
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