Jasper Johns

Whitney Museum of American Art

"The problem with ideas is, the idea is often simply a way to focus your interest in making a work...a function of the work is not to express the idea...
The idea focuses your attention in a certain way that helps you do the work."
- Jasper Johns

What is there to say about Jasper Johns? A lot, naturally, but what is there for me to say? I've passed over artists like de Kooning, Guston, or Goya in silence because there's often little to explicate about canonical artists. The canon gets written about frequently enough, but aside from the incessant general overviews, arts writing is often reducible to art history's itemizing or art theory's theorizing (we will pass over the question of symbolism in silence). There's nothing wrong with either practice, historical and biographical information provides context that can be important for filling out one's idea of the artist and their body of work, and theory provides an intellectual form for conceptualizing what is happening in works of art or how they figure in to larger systems of thought beyond the arts. The problem is that, while both are important for a comprehensive understanding of art, neither actually addresses the art in itself. This is understandable because it's nearly impossible, if not wholly, to talk about art in itself, but as a consequence the discourse surrounding the evaluation of art becomes reduced to these two categories: art is good because it is historically important, or art is good because it is theoretically important, both of which get things backwards. Art can become historically or theoretically important, but it needs to be good in the first place. The question, then, is what makes it good? Quality is considered a subjective criterion, and it is, but subjectivity is also invoked to imply that individuals are autonomous, which they are not. Individuals, as subjects, are beholden to the influences and contexts of their time, and these contexts shape the contemporary perception of art. If anything, the purpose of the art critic is to attempt to map this context, to subjectively and contingently articulate the current of artistic trends and try to make some sense of what is presently relevant and what is irrelevant. This is, admittedly, only marginally different from a fashion magazine declaring that mauve is in or out this year, but that margin is crucial inasmuch that art historical importance is a doubled movement wherein important work is both entirely the product of the moment and definitional to that moment. Criticism is largely the job of attempting to judge an artwork's relevance to posterity before posterity comes to pass, an impossible task that's only worth attempting because of its impossibility.* This is why it's hard to write about De Kooning or Guston, they stand so imperturbably in our minds as great artists that there's little point in belaboring their greatness; their positions are resolved so there's nothing to discuss.** This is a central issue of art criticism, and of criticality in general: that quite often the better something is, the less words do it justice. A close reading of a painting's details can be illuminating, but that also requires a reference image of the painting and still leaves aside the question of quality. The reception of a good artwork occurs in looking at it, and no amount of description regarding the quality of paint, color, line, etc., can reproduce the act of seeing. But my own bias against description is probably already clear to anyone who's read my reviews. All of this notwithstanding, Jasper Johns is worth talking about.

A key part of the distinction and complexity of Jasper Johns is that his art resists categorization in spite of being one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His emotional distance and repetitive subjects were influential to the development of minimalism, but his own sense of austerity is very different from the pared down essentialism of the minimalist temperament; his appropriations from mass culture set the stage for pop art, but he has none of the irony that is integral to pop; Dada's anti-aesthetic attitude is an important precursor to his sensibility (Duchamp is almost his only overt influence outside of Rauschenberg), but his art is not at all anarchic, contrarian, or anti-art. At root, he is an anti-expressionist. Resisting ideas of self-expression and genius as bourgeois, commercialized, individualistic, etc., is well-trodden avant-garde rhetoric, but Johns' avoidance of expression is, ironically, singular. It's also ironic that his individual sense for subverting individuality has been a more sustained and resolute critique of expressive art than the collective artistic movements that have sought to resist expression, although that's not without reason. To begin with, Johns' work is not critical. His art is, as he has said, "a constant negation of impulses," but this negation only seeks to avoid doing what other artists do, i.e. follow their impulsive intuition, not to stage a polemic against impulses. This is in his favor, because artistic polemics limit themselves by being oppositional. Johns' painting is not expressive, but not because he thinks abstract expressionism is wrong. He is only concerned with working inexpressively as a sort of constraint, a personal decision instead of a claim to truth. Taking an ideological artistic stance amounts to asserting an artistic method as truth and those in opposition as false, but delineating rules for art is at best a rule of thumb that can be useful for an individual at a specific time and place and at worst is shooting oneself in the foot. But why would Johns resist expression if not as a critique? As Kirk Varnedoe puts it in his introduction to Johns' 1996 MoMA retrospective: "He had inherited the notion, familiar at least since Romanticism, that knowledge blinds us to experience. More particularly—and true to a specifically modern variant of the notion—he embraced the credo that unreflective knowledge, of the kind that entrenches itself in habit, was the most sinister problem; and that self-aware knowledge—the kind of intent attention provoked by challenging art—was the best solution." (Varnedoe, Jasper Johns: A Retrospective, 1996, p. 17.) In other words, the Johnsian method aims to resist habit, and, as such, self-expression is rejected as more unreflective and habitual than the self-aware attention of working at a distance from oneself. This is nothing novel, as we've already said, because all forms of avant-gardism involve at least some notion of transcending art's navel-gazing, or rather the wrong form of navel-gazing, because all art is in the end a kind of indulgence. But Johns' resoluteness in avoiding himself is unique, even in his later works where his subject matter becomes a dense network of self-reference, because he seems to have succeeded where others have failed. Why that is is difficult to ascertain, but, broadly speaking, he avoids some of the cardinal excesses of avant-gardism: ideological certitude, subjectivity as subject, and, when avoiding both of the former, the problem of continuing to make work without those traditional grounds. This is not to say that art that is subject to these tendencies is bad. Art does not succeed based on a metric of perfection, much less an idea of perfect avant-garde self-negation. Regardless, the particularity of Johns as an artist is thanks to the extent of his achievement of this negation, which may very well be unmatched. As a foil to his singularity, we can contrast him with examples from the aforementioned movements, each great artists in their own right: minimalism and Donald Judd, pop and Andy Warhol, and Marcel Duchamp and Dada.

On paper, minimalism seems close to the spirit of Johns' art. Judd valorized qualities in art such as neutrality, inexpressiveness, concreteness, and formal simplicity, all of which are common to Johns, even if the simple form of a flag has little in common with the simple form of a cube. Judd is even more austere than Johns, but his austerity is of a dramatically different kind. Johns attempts to avoid expression through his neutral motifs, images that are particular in their arbitrariness, as with his well-known description of his flags and targets as "things the mind already knows." His goal is to present a painting without the conventional affectations of painting, avoiding expression though inexpressive subjects, or rather, expressing an inexpressive subject. Judd wants to express his subject in a conventional manner, but that subject is pared down to what he considers essential. The minimalist conceit is that less is more, i.e. the more basic or "fundamental" something is, the more profound it is. These fundamentals are qualities like shape and color approached as absolutes, the austere sterility of industrial production, etc. There is nothing wrong in an artist's interest in these formal categories over others per se, but an issue arises from his belief that his aesthetic approach is somehow more correct than others. The presumption is a common but suspect one, where quality is correlated with one type or another rather than in the particular qualities of a single artwork that succeeds or fails on its own merit. In a word, Judd's work is fetishistic, in the talismanic sense, whereas Johns is the arch anti-fetishist artist in spite (or because) of his constant reuse of tropes and motifs. This difference in attachment to their own work is where the two separate. For example, Johns' work is austere by the force of his resistance to his own subjectivity, a relentless negation of the artist's affiliation with their work, which has naturally turned him into one of the most compellingly subjective artists. This austerity is formal, pre-aesthetic, and integral to the whole of his working process. Judd's austerity is an affectation that he associates with his identity, a posture he self-consciously seeks to achieve by creating his work in a particular mode that presupposes the austere. This is reflected in their working methods: Johns achieves austerity through method with materials that are at least conventional and often ostentatiously technical, but nevertheless the strange distance he applies to his work persists. Judd's means are consciously stripped down to operate in his chosen field, a consideration of the spatial and serial in his pure discrete objects, to the exclusion of everything else. Johns' work is also spatial and serial, but not exclusively. His repetitions are part of an obscure working process, a subject we will return to later. The issue of Judd is simply that his "object-oriented aesthetics" do not resolve the problem they grapple with. He is attempting to negate the subject-object binary in art by making nonrepresentational objects, but that binary is irreducible. Any and all products of human work, let alone art, are subject to representations in the form of symbolic associations and significance, meaning, and so on. A box is not a discrete object, no matter what Judd thinks. More importantly, Judd's work may have been relatively discrete and nonrepresentational when he first conceived of it, but since the minimal aesthetic has become a clearly identifiable, and therefore commodifiable, format. A trip uptown to the galleries, furniture stores, and I imagine the homes, makes it palpably clear that minimalism is very much in vogue as a home decor aesthetic. The ramifications of the difference between commodified forms of art and those that resist commodity are too complex to address here, but it suffices to say that much of what was once radical about Judd's sensibility has now been incorporated into upper class interior design, an unadventurous milieu if ever there was one. On the other hand, Johns' negation of himself in his work has created a body of work that has been consistently resistant to commodification, and it is as just as difficult and disconcerting as it was in the 1950s.

Speaking of difficult and disconcerting, what's often hard to remember about Andy Warhol's art is how confrontational it was when it first emerged. In the '60s, his Campbell's soup cans and messy screenprints of Marilyn Monroe were like spitting in the face of the art world and read like a shockingly flippant non-gesture. His films still carry that discomfiting roughness, but in contemporary culture the odd icon-worship of his paintings has ironically turned his consciously empty products and celebrities into a cipher for content. There certainly is something of an accomplishment in Warhol's transformation of his vacuous renderings of pop symbols into famous symbols in their own right, and he can't be held responsible for the stupidity of contemporary street art, so I don't mean to argue that his work is bad or insignificant. All the same, his techniques did invite this co-option by the commercially-minded, albeit in a form that was impossible to anticipate in the '60s. Johns' work, on the other hand, has preserved its withholding ambiguity in spite of his work being iconic in its own right. His flags and targets, maps and numbers, crosshatches and flagstones, beer cans and appropriations from the Isenheim Altarpiece, Picasso, etc., are remembered as specific artworks instead of as pop-cultural symbols because his usage of them is essentially the opposite of Warhol's. Warhol's appropriations are subjective and affiliative; he liked Campbell's soup, he liked Marilyn Monroe, so he put those things in his work and they function based on the audience's shared affiliation with those subjects. That uncomplicated directness is what made his work radical, a posture of superficiality as a form of contrarian depth. However, even leaving aside Warhol's particular talent for the superficial that his imitators tend to lack, this gesture has lost its efficacy in the wake of the art world's progressive decline from the compulsory highbrow pretensions of the '50s to our current nobrow free-for-all. His work's antagonism was culturally contingent, and now there's little radicality in, I don't know, posting a photo of Kylie Jenner on Twitter, which is nearly an equivalent action to a screenprint of Marilyn. What was once an inscrutable act has become entirely conventional, which is not to say that pop appropriation is now intrinsically dead or impossible to do productively. It has simply been normalized, so that the way we read Warhol is dramatically different from how he was read before. An artist's work becoming a popular commodity form is not an inherent evil, but on the other hand the commodification of certain kinds of art begs the question of what distinguishes it from others whose edges have not been filed down by time.

"You do something in painting and you see it. Now the idea of 'thing' or 'it' can be subjected to great alterations, so that we look in a certain direction and see one thing, we look in another way and we see another thing. So what we call 'thing' becomes very elusive and very flexible, and it involves the arrangement of elements before us, and it also involves the arrangement of our senses at the time of encountering this thing. It involves the way we focus, what we are willing to accept as being there." - Jasper Johns, Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, 1997, pp. 114-115.

Duchamp is the wellspring of the 20th century's expanded, adversarial artistic tradition and, as mentioned above, one of the only direct influences on Johns, although critics famously referred to Johns as "neo-Dada" before he knew what Dada was. This doesn't threaten the validity of the observation; he was neo-Dada through natural proclivity whether or not he knew the history. Further, Johns has consistently championed Duchamp, at least by his own rather tight-lipped standards (roughly half of his published writings are on Duchamp, but all of his writing fits into five pages), and his own way of thinking about art is clearly inspired by Duchamp's challenges to "retinal" art and his problematizing of the artist as a concept and figure. Duchamp is undeniably one of the most truly innovative artists of the 20th century, the primordial explosion of the conceptual, but there is a problem. The lines he traced led to dead ends, and he gave up and stopped working. He described his own abandonment of art as being like breaking a leg, that you don't mean to do it. It's not a fault in itself for an artist to stop making art, especially in the case of Duchamp where his unproductive decades feel like a perfectly punctuated coda to his career rather than a tragic squandering of talent. Johns himself puts it well by referencing a New Yorker comic in a footnote to his review of The Green Box: "Oh, I give him full credit for inventing fire, but what's he done since?" So are we really in any position to nitpick the inventor of fire's accomplishments? No, but some of his positions, taken abstractly, contain excesses that in retrospect can be seen as excesses that perhaps led to his withdrawal from art, excesses that Johns corrects in his own practice. Duchamp's main innovation revolves around his antagonism towards retinal art, which led to the creation of the conceptual. Probably his most important idea for Johns was his desire to "reach the Impossibility of sufficient visual memory to transfer from one like object to another the memory imprint," as with his Wilson-Lincoln system, named in reference to a changing two-way image that simultaneously showed portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. There are notes where Duchamp spoke of applying this method to The Large Glass to "lose the possibility of identifying ... 2 colors, 2 laces, 2 hats, 2 forms"; he never did this, but it is quite easy to see how this questioning of the stability of images came to be integral to Johns and his use of repetition. The key difference between the two artists is one of means; Johns is a painter whereas Duchamp consciously resisted confining himself to a chosen medium. As I've suggested elsewhere, a difficulty of conceptual art is the problem of work, which comes out of the avoidance of conventional artistic disciplines. Another one of Duchamp's revelations is that an artist does not need to work, per se. To live as an artist and engage with the world as though it were a metaphysical artwork is sufficient, because the essential act of the artist is to articulate their sensibility. Crucially, though, a distinct sensibility is not an inborn fact of individuality, it is something that is built, and that building is traditionally done through the development of a technical craft. A good painter hones their perceptions by returning again and again to the act of painting, a process that continually deepens and broadens their sense of engagement. Duchamp preferred to tinker with his unconventional assemblages and readymades, great works in and of themselves, but works that closed off the possibility of the next work. Limiting the number of readymades was essential to their effectiveness, and elaborate constructions like The Green Box, The Large Glass, and Étant Donnés are brilliantly clever innovations precisely in their singularity. Duchamp's avoidance of repetition boxed him into a corner because repetition is unavoidable, and this is exactly what Johns inverts, an emphasis on repetition that leads to freedom.

"It seemed to be the most interesting point about Johns that he managed somehow to discover uninteresting things to paint." - Leo Steinberg, Jasper Johns: the First Seven Years of His Art

Warhol and Judd were the popularizers of pop art and minimalism as genres, ideological blueprints that could then be appropriated and neutralized because their methods were identifiable outside of the scope of the works themselves. These genres create a format that does not necessarily imply attention, intention, or sensibility. Johns did not found a scene of followers of his style because his work is not reducible to its signifiers. In fact, it is grounded precisely in contrast to the represented image. This is perhaps the central difference between Warhol and Johns, that Warhol negates work to the benefit of the icon where Johns negates the icon to the benefit of the work. Warhol was interested in the iconic qualities of his subjects and approached them with a blunt directness that streamlines the artist's role; Johns' motifs are almost always oblique, or at least always treated obliquely. This obliqueness (Steinberg's uninteresting things) is the masterstroke of his oeuvre, but in contrast to these movements that he helped inspire, this remoteness is not the goal. Pop art aspired to ironic distance and minimalism aspired to austerity, but Johns aspires to work. His subjects are a solution to the problem of finding a subject to better leave one open to grappling with art's real, unsolvable problems, those of image, representation, composition, technique, etc. The artistic crisis of the 20th century is one that has carried over from the late 19th: the state of the subject in the wake of photography, the nagging question in the back of one's mind of why one should paint at all when the world can be reproduced effortlessly. The answer, of course, is that a flag is a flag, a painting of a flag is a painting, and a photo of a flag is a photo. Each is a discrete category, so the question becomes what it is that separates those categories, and how one is to utilize and accentuate those differences. Painting is painted and its qualities are expressed with paint. Warhol's images could be said to only narrowly distinguish themselves from photographs in a tabloid or a magazine ad, and Judd's sculptures might not meaningfully distinguish themselves from industrial design and architecture, but a flag by Johns is a painting, not a flag. This is not quite a paradox, perhaps just a confusion that has been isolated and refined, but the division between a thing being a thing and a painting of a thing being not the thing, but a painting, is the central tension that everything in his work orbits around. It is because of his awareness of this tension that his subjects refuse to wear out. His repetitions are not concerned with the meaning of the thing shown, but with the usage of the thing towards the end of painting itself, the success or failure of the painting as a painting. An American flag on an orange ground, an American flag in complementary colors, or a series of American flags stacked on each other are not a revisitation to the meaning of the American flag, they reuse the flag as a means of creating paintings. The flags are not so much a subject as they are a method for Johns to negate his self-expression, for him to paint while avoiding as much as possible the necessity of invention. However, this negation is not at all inexpressive because it pointedly expresses his sensibility, his aversion to expression.

This subjective self-negation is successful for being personal, whereas less individual anti-subjective strategies often fail. When artists attempt to negate the personal it often occurs through the invocation of a universal, as with minimalist formalism, or in an artist's reliance on the weight of symbols to create meaning for them. This does not actually work as self-negation because it is simply an affectation of grandeur, a gesture towards an Other that leads to a vacancy in the artwork itself. The existence of universal qualities in artworks is only achieved by the artist's articulation of them in the work's matter, which naturally brings the content of the work back into a subjective position. In other words, art has to be subjective to be objective, because artists are finite individual subjects. Art is a signifier, not a signified. Johns' austere, negating relationship to his work is his own subjective position, which is why it is a more pure, fundamental dynamic that suffuses his art and not an assumed posture; the work is often vaguely or explicitly morbid, which comes as an expression of his personality. This dour attitude of the work comes through because the negation of one's impulses is repressive and naturally leads to a lack of exuberance, which is perhaps a profound insight into the nature of being an artist. His surrender of himself and his passions to the cause of the unbounded process of working on art is not in fact a harmonious marriage of life and work, but a deep sacrifice of one's humanity to art, one that is often isolating and sad. What he has done is hard, a personal disavowal of the self, which is why it surpasses those who would affect a transcendentalism of artistic austerity. There is no sophistry or rhetorical trick to his work's purity, it is a hard-won personal achievement of this refusal of expression. He has done this because expression is not limitless, material is. The negation of expression allows for a space to open up towards the focus upon the details of a subject, as in the minute variations of his perpetually reused motifs. Self-expression is inherently a limitation because one becomes oneself by virtue of not making art like someone else, self-affiliating with certain methods of working, styles and sensibilities. In this way, expressivity is a path towards repeating oneself, copying your own old ideas as you age and become incapable of reinvention due to the entropic burden of accumulated experience. A successful sensibility that does not become trapped in the solipsistic cage of style is one that manages to encircle material qualities, like Cézanne or Picasso and their (very different) approaches to depiction, the interpretation of a real subject through the medium of paint. Their styles, in spite of their distinctiveness, are not reducible to subjective style because they seek to address the material medium of painting and the material objects of the world instead of simply repeating their stylistic methodology. The genius of Johns is that his subjective style has been a subversion of style, a focus on the materiality of his medium through the avoidance of exercising his aesthetic sense. But one always articulates their aesthetic sense by virtue of working, it is impossible to avoid. The resulting body of work is not "about" itself, it is preoccupied with the unlimited qualities of material reality, the granular facts of one sheet of paper's difference from another, the variations of color in a repeated series of patterns. This materiality gives art writers a compulsion to interpret in spite of his resolute resistance to meaning. Scholars become obsessed with hunting for the sources of his references***, as though cataloging his sources and techniques will unlock the puzzle of the painting's essence. In reality, understanding this information is entirely beside the point of the experience of the painting. Likewise, his negation of self is thematically present in his consistent usage of the bodily; a hand, printing with skin, cast body parts, etc. The subjectivity of the individual (himself) is implied, but his subjectivity is not actually evoked in effect. Rather, the body reads as a universal subject, an invocation of humanity as an abstract concept, an experience of the "human condition." In this way his work becomes profound, almost in spite of itself, so resolutely impersonal that it reaches beyond both the personal and the general into something surprisingly and deeply affective. This has been especially present in many of his recent motifs, Farley Breaks Down, Regrets, Slice, and his revival of the skeleton from Seasons and his stick figure cavemen.

Each of these motifs contains something of his aforementioned morbidity, to varying degrees: Farley Breaks Down deals with very real despair, Regrets is a similar image except it is staged, a skeleton is always morbid, and the stick figure-like cluster of galaxies in Slice along with the stick figure cavemen feel like a tongue-in-cheek caricature of humanity. The contrasting stick figure treatments oscillate between the miniature and the immense, where we are both insignificant twigs and reflections of a cosmic whole (or slice). Stick figures may not be categorically morbid, but with Johns' usual arm's length treatment they become disassociative. The effect is something like a vertiginous moment of being outside of oneself and feeling that all of life is unreal, that we mill around aimlessly in our little lives like ants, or, conversely, an equally fleeting sensation where the insignificance of our individual lives interpenetrates with the grand significance of existence. What is shocking is that the work projects these meanings in spite of Johns' apparent disinterest in interpretation, and that it succeeds in such profundity where artists aspiring towards the sublime so routinely fail. The consistency in these works, and in Johns in general, is that his subjects are entirely "outside himself." He is not driven by his feelings and sentimentality, or by a conventional sense of momentary inspiration, but he has nevertheless had numerous famous moments of inspiration: his dream of a flag painting, De Kooning's comment that Castelli "could sell two beer cans" that inspired his ale can sculpture, a pattern on a passing car, a painted flagstone wall seen from a car window, etc. All these appropriated subjects do not have a personal, affiliative spark. Rather, they seem to have attracted Johns precisely because of their distinctly impersonal arbitrariness which gives them a sort of inverse precision, a Johnsian sense of the impersonal that remains surprisingly distinct. Johns is interested in a dialectical aporia of vision, the process of seeing something you "cannot" see, like the American flag or the Mona Lisa. What is fascinating about this technique is that we do see these things we cannot see. Likewise, the work is beautiful and emotive in spite (or because) of its ascetic disavowal of beauty and emotion, articulate in its conjuring of Johns' persona in spite (or because) of its rigid impersonality, and brilliant in its inexhaustible inventiveness in spite of his being one of the most repetitive artists of all time. His very lack of indulgence is what renders his work into the form of the highest indulgence in art, not of expression, aesthetics, inspiration, or even virtuosity, but of work. Art is the dream of unalienated labor, and Johns has achieved that. He has worked for his entire life immersed in a system that has operated successfully and productively for nearly 70 years. His greatest genius is to have written himself out of his work in such a way that he remains precisely engaged, not abstracted from but in fact all the more immediately invested by having inoculated himself against any number of difficulties that come from conventionally personal artwork. Expression, inspiration, the compulsion to have ideas for new work, are roadblocks he has avoided but nevertheless does not negate in his work. Instead, the work achieves them brilliantly through an understanding that these things cannot truly be written out by any means. Mirroring, repetitions, illusions like the rabbit-duck, images that are invisible through their ubiquity, personal motifs that are rendered abstract by his reuse of them, all of these processes serve to express the image as a materialist impulse, a sensitivity to the pure haeccity of each image. Reality is boundless, and the purpose of art is to convey that boundlessness, to give us a fleeting glimpse of the smallest sliver of the infinite, a shred of the corner of the vast space of all that we can know and the meager scope of that which we will know in our lifetimes. Like Aquinas' conception of God, our experience of art is, in its greatest moments, a revelation of the knowledge of what we cannot know, an apprehension of the outline of that which is beyond what we can conceive, the sublime not as a trite Edenic paradise but as the absolute. The art of Jasper Johns is sublime, nearly, again, in spite of itself, a vision conveyed not through its emotional force or sensuality of expression but by its very being, its nigh incomprehensible immensity as a body of work, a piety not shown through the content of its images but by the reverence for art at its root, in its making.

* viz. Pitchfork's re-reviews that articulate their frustration at being unable to predict the future the first time, as if there's any point in recognizing that an album that they panned at its release ended up being popular. Critics don't define the canon, they try to make sense of it.
** I do suspect that Guston's preeminence is waning, unrelated to the controversy surrounding his recently postponed retrospective. The return to figuration seems (to my mind) to already be on its way out, so his "cartoons can be radical too" ethos has run its course as a wellspring for the moment. This is indicative of the wider dynamics in play: just as an artist's style is contingent on their cultural context, artists from the past wax and wane as the content of their work becomes relevant or irrelevant to the ideas being worked out in the contemporary climate. Kippenberger, as I have noted elsewhere, is worn out. Johns is in, I think, but we'll see how everyone feels about him this time next year.
*** He hid the source of the Green Angel to explicitly push back against this tendency, but nevertheless John Yau revealed last year that it comes from an obscure Rodin.