Jasper Johns Stays Divinely Busy

A gallery exhibition in Manhattan gives the truest picture of the artist, at 88, who is continuing to work and innovate.

At 88, Jasper Johns is not slowing down. After spending more than six decades cultivating an extensive and influential body of work, he continues to be relentlessly productive and inventive.

His art has sometimes been described as somber or melancholic. His latest exhibition, “Recent Paintings & Works on Paper,” at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea, depicts moments of inconsolable grief and concludes with a gallery full of portrayals of skeletons, albeit ones wearing dandyish boaters.

Yet in its sheer variety and vitality, this exhibition is optimistic, and generous in spirit. It reaffirms Mr. Johns as, foremost, a painter’s painter and a working artist rather than an art historical subject. In it he revisits three or four previous series — extending, editing or recombining their motifs — and introduces two new ones that more than meet the Johnsian standards of mystery, suggestion and painterly allure.

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