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Current time:0:00Total duration:2:47

Video transcript

As a young art historian, I was attracted to many of John’s contemporaries who used abstract expressionist bright colors. John’s was always difficult for me everything in the work seems to be veiled. It took awhile to discover certain wonderful secrets. This marvelously, mysterious ghost of an American flag seems to hide itself behind these layers of built up wax. The work is reticent even a little chilly perhaps even a little chilly. I wanted to look behind that surface. You see tantalizing glimpses of headlines coming through, pictures from the newspaper pages almost visible. almost visible. One might think this has to do with some sort of politics., but John’s says the idea to paint an American flag came to him in a dream. For him it really is about having a structure that’s preexisting within whose boundaries he can experiment. The work is really radical in its texture. If you look closely at the stars each one is separately cut out and collaged onto the surface. Another experiment is the use of encaustic paint, hot beeswax that cools instantly, so you have the possibility of a rapid painting approach that at the same time capture each and every individual brushstroke within the surface. It’s almost like a sculpture. It has a kind of relief surface. It’s also made out of three different canvases and that also messes with our idea of what makes a painting. One of the meanings perhaps of this work is that we don’t have access to everything we want to have access to. We don’t really understand the ghost-like things that come to us in our dreams. We don’t always understand what we read in the newspaper. We don’t understand fully how this nation was put together. As I warmed up to this work, I realized that a work can be inscrutable and you can still love it. For me, that’s one of the really intense meanings of this work. John’s is one of those amazing artists whose work with you as a viewer is never finished.