Johns Oral Histories

In this singular oral history, the WPI’s Director of Digital Publications, Caitlin Sweeney, speaks with Roberta Bernstein about her first-hand experience working with Jasper Johns to complete the research for the artist’s catalogue raisonné of painting and sculpture, as well as her monograph on his work. Sweeney and Bernstein worked on the project together, and their conversation brings new insights into the advantages of working with a living artist, Johns’ commitment to objectivity, and how an artist may navigate the creation of their historical legacy. 

Roberta Bernstein is the author and project director of Jasper Johns: Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture, including the catalogue’s comprehensive monograph, Jasper Johns’s Painting and Sculpture, 1954–2014: Redo an Eye. Bernstein has written and lectured extensively on Johns and other contemporary artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Marisol Escobar. Bernstein is professor emeritus of art history at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University.  Highlights of the interview include discussions of Bernstein’s dissertation—the first art history dissertation on a living artist at Columbia University—on Johns, memories of early years working in Warhol and Johns’ studios, and reflections on the process of cataloguing and classifying a living artist’s works. 

KEYWORDS: Jasper Johns, catalogue raisonné, John Cage, Theodore Reff, Columbia University, dissertations, art history, David Whitney, Merce Cunningham, Wildenstein Institute, Heidi Colsman-Freyberger, archives, Museum of Modern Art, Leo Castelli, art mediums, Fool’s House, Flag 

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