Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Watchman was made while Jasper Johns was living abroad in Tokyo, Japan. The seminal work features a wax cast of Johns’s friend’s leg, two canvas panels, and half of a standard dining table chair. The surface of the painting is seemingly in the midst of action. The words “red,” “yellow,” and “blue” printed partially on the left side of the canvas appear as though in a state of erasure, while their colorful pigmented counterparts appear also disrupted on the right. The ejection of the chair upward to the sky leaves an aftermath of orange, green, and gray, like a falling rain of expressive marks across a once ordered surface. Overall, Watchman is a painting that is trying to be more than a painting; it is caught in the very moment when the world of thought and representation (of symbols and signs) is transitioning into the world of action and physical expression.