A New Work by Jasper Rauschenberg? Or Is It by Robert Johns?

THE DAILY PIC: A 1955 Macy's window may have been propped by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

 

THE DAILY PIC (#1619): Matson Jones may have had just about the best pedigree any artist could ask for: As a horse breeder would say, he was by Jasper Johns, out of Robert Rauschenberg. That pair of artistic geniuses created the fictional Jones as their commercial alter ego when they were supplying props and backgrounds to window dressers in 1950s New York and didn’t want to have that work confused with their fine art. (Although I’ve come across one case, never noticed to date, where they took credit for a window display under their own names…)

I think that the photographic silhouette in the rear of this Macy’s store window, dressed in late August of 1955, may be one of Matson Jones’s creations. I came across the image when I was digging around for records of Andy Warhol’s work as a window dresser, and its silhouette immediately called to mind the cyanotypes that “Jones” is known to have made by placing bodies and objects on blueprint paper then exposing it to light. (Rauschenberg and his wife Susan Weil had launched the process under their own names in Life magazine in 1951; there’s a fine discussion of the cyanotypes at Greg.org.) Admittedly, this Macy’s window features the black-and-white image of a standard photogram, but it seems to me that once you’ve got the cyanotype process down pat, transferring it to normal photographic paper would be pretty obvious.

I’m no expert on Johns or Rauschenberg – or Jones – so I’m hoping that some art historian will see today’s Pic and let me know if there are other works by either artist (or rather, by any of the three) that the Macy’s background hints at.

 For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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