Jasper Johns has been a central figure in contemporary art since he arrived in New York in the early 1950s. He soon formed relationships with Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham and began to make paintings that appropriated popular iconography—the American flag, targets, numbers, and letters—quickly announcing himself an important new artist. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchased three pieces from Johns's first one-person exhibition, at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958. As his career has developed Johns has added crosshatching, marks made by his body, and, more recently, the catenary curve to his collection of motifs. These motifs constitute a very personal language, one that Johns has introduced across his entire body of work—paintings, sculpture, prints, and works that combine elements of each discipline. "My experience of life is that it's very fragmented; certain kinds of things happen, and in another place, a different kind of thing occurs," he has explained. "I would like my work to have some vivid indication of those differences."
Johns (born 1930) has been the subject of one-person exhibitions throughout the world, at institutions including The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Kunstmuseum Basel; and, most recently The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where his retrospective exhibition is on view through February 3, 2013.