Jasper Johns, Untitled (2018) (detail). © Jasper Johns / VAGA at ARS, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
More words may have been written about Jasper Johns than about any other American artist who isn't Andy Warhol. Critical verbiage spumes in the wake of a sixty-some-year career (Johns is eighty-eight) that began with revolutionary paintings of flags, targets, sets of numbers, and maps—or, per a standard paradox, paintings that virtually are those things. Many of the writers, who now include Alexi Worth, a contributor to the catalogue of a show of recent work by Johns at the Matthew Marks Gallery, remark with some ratio of awe and exasperation on the artist's taciturnity. He doesn't—will not, don't waste your breath asking him—discuss his works. This rankles, because what he makes seems positively to pant for discussion. Johns is a riddler, even—or especially—when his themes are blatant. In the present show, they run to death and sorrow, with a fillip of political history.