The target has been a central motif in Johns’s work since 1955. He has depicted this deceptively simple image in a range of different media, translating between contexts and materials. Johns’s approach prioritizes process and experimentation over definitive conclusions. As the artist famously wrote in a notebook in 1963–64: "Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it." This work presents the outlines of five concentric circles accompanied by three dried watercolor cakes in the primary colors and a small red paintbrush. Johns wryly makes reference to the ubiquity and banality of targets, as well as to the seeming simplicity of his own celebrated creations. Below the work's stamped title and date is the artist’s signature followed by the word "AND" with a blank line, anticipating the addition of another name, that of Johns’s eventual collaborator. Target thus generates a paradox: the work can only be "completed" by someone else, but to do so would perhaps also destroy the integrity of the artwork. Therefore the work must remain in a perpetually unfinished state.
Signature: signed and numbered 41/50, Gemini Editions
Estate of William S. Lieberman; William S. Lieberman (American, Paris 1923–2005 New York); Donor: William S. Lieberman (American, Paris 1923–2005 New York)Donor: Estate of William S. Lieberman
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016.