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Image Entertainment presents
Jasper Johns: Ideas in Paint (1989)

"There's probably very few people you could name who haven't been touched by Jasper. And not so much by doing what Jasper does, but being influenced by how [he] thinks about what he does."
- Richard Serra, sculptor

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: Jasper Johns
Other Stars: Melvyn Bragg, Richard Serra, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Frank Stella, various art world pundits
Director: Rick Tejada-Flores

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:56m:00s
Release Date: January 30, 2001
UPC: 014381580525
Genre: art

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ A-B+B+ D-

DVD Review

Jasper Johns is a painter in the truest sense of the word. His paintings are not necessarily beautiful, but the paint is. His most notorious work, "Flag, 1954-55", might be just that, the American flag from corner to corner, edge to edge; look closer, and it is a glorious series of strokes laid down by someone who understands his medium. The program opens with the statement that Johns might be "the most important American artist of our times." Finally, I agree. Although I am not an unconditional admirer, I have kept his body of work in my peripheral vision for more than 2 decades now, aware that there is certainly something there worth tracking.

Unlike most of his immediate predecessors (Pollock, Kline, Rothko), Johns, with his 1959 statement, "I don't want my work to be an exposure of my feelings," brought us back to a more representational form of abstraction. Later in life, he would recognize the folly of this concept, but at the time it was an important philosophy for both him and the public. He offered the familiar once again, albeit in unfamiliar ways. Success came early to him, and he has remained successful because, like Picasso, he has never stood still; has never stopped considering the medium and how he can manipulate it. He develops a concept to its fruitful end and moves on to the next, always exploring, always experimenting; only his process remains the same.

Created by WHYY/Boston for PBS, Jasper Johns: Ideas in Paint is fairly different from most of the other discs in Image Entertainment's artist series. While production values are higher, I think the content suffers. There is a lot of filler material that grinds interest to a halt. The ambient music is actually annoying at times, adding absolutely nothing. I know more about Johns from having seen this program, but only by absorbing a sampling of his work in semi-chronological order. I have always appreciated his preeminence in contemporary art, but I am not certain this program will swing fence sitters his way. No matter—this living artist will continue to see 8-figure price tags for single canvases, like him or not.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This transfer is the best of the series yet, but again, the original production appears to have drawn a higher budget. The colors are rich and saturated; detail is sharp down to the brushstrokes. Even the archival clips are in good shape. A nice job overall, from a likely "easy" source.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 track is crisp and unblemished. In the contemporary clips from the Venice Biennale, the conversation is hushed and difficult to decipher, leaving one to feel like an intruder in the midst of the pre-show busywork; but this is inherent in the original.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extra features are included with this series. A static menu offers a plentiful 16 chapter-stops (the last of which contains the closing credits). I find the cover art disturbing, as it smacks more of Warhol than the artist within.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Jasper Johns is a painter's painter. You do not have to like his work to appreciate his gift: there is no doubt the brush is an extension of his hand, his eye, his mind. Image did well to include this program in their series. This is a great disc for anyone interested in learning more about contemporary American art: Jasper John's work is approachable, likeable and possibly even understandable.


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