Jasper Johns created The Critic Sees in 1964 four years before he made The Critic Smiles. Like in The Critic Smiles Johns has once again brought his wit forward for all of us to see and enjoy. The eyes behind a pair of eyeglass frames are replaced with talking mouths – talking and seeing become the same. Much like the gold teeth in The Critic Smiles this work is an art world visual pun. It's also gray like The Critic Smiles – gray being one of Jasper Johns' favorite colors. Gray over the years has become not just a color for Johns but the "essence of a long metaphysical journey, an exploration of “the condition of gray itself.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago were the venues last year for "Jasper Johns: Gray" an exhibition of Johns' work that focussed on his use of gray throughout his career. At one point when asked about gray and the exhibition itself, Johns answered in classic sphinx style:
“Yes, gray has been important to me. But I don’t tend to think of it as separate from the rest of my work. ... At first I had some idea that the absence of color made the work more physical. Early on I was very involved with the notion of the painting as an object and tended to attack that idea from different directions.”There are a number of videos here on the internet that will show you the enormity of the Gray show at the Metropolitan and the Art Institute, some explaining a bit more about the work. One of the best videos is this one with Jerry Saltz from New York Magazine. Saltz will take you on a tour of the exhibit, picking the pieces he thinks will show Jasper Johns' grays in the best and most humorous light. And humor is always a good thing on an art tour, especially when the exhibit would at first appear to be monochromatic. Saltz starts after a 30 second commercial (there is no such thing as a free lunch or video in this case.)
Another video about the show is Charlie Rose interviewing Nan Rosenthal, Senior Consultant in the Metropolitan's Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art. Rose's interview of Rosenthal is also insightful if less humorous than the Saltz. Click here for the link for Mr. Rose's adventure with Jasper John's Gray.