Map, 1961 by Jasper Johns

The large MAP represents an addition to Jasper Johns repertoire of imagery. The previous year, Rauschenberg had given Johns a schematic American map of the sort used in a school notebook, and Johns had painted over it; he used those proportions to paint the larger map.

Paint drips are prominent feature of this MAP; they are much more striking than in previous paintings, and remind us of the role of accident in the creation of his work. In ordinary life, such drips usually imply a mistake, or sloppy indifference. and there is a persistent theme in modern art, a theme of using chance events, which the viewing public has often mistrusted.

Duchamp, who employed chance in his working method, once said: "Your chance is not the same as my chance." He meant that the outcome of probability events is actually an expression of the artist's subconscious. This idea that you control what you do not control may at first seem surprising.

Johns' own view is not so no-minded:"There are no accidents in my work. It sometimes happens that something unexpected occurs - the paint may run - but then I see that it has happened, and I have the choice to paint it again or not. And if I don't, then the appearance of that element in the painting is no accident."

Some observers are put off by ideas such as these. The artist does not seem to be struggling to bring forth a preexisting vision, but rather is engaged in a process where the outcome may or may not conform to the initial idea, and where accidents along the way are incorporated. The idea of following a process in artistic creation makes people uneasy; the idea of a struggle - birth pangs - is much more acceptable.

Thus the cliché that the artist is never satisfied with his work, that it never turns out to be what he "had in mind." The usual explanation for this state of affairs assumes that imagination has a richness beyond what the fingers can actually perform, and so disappointment inevitably follows. Much has been written about the eternal striving of the artist to reproduce the wondrous visions in his brain.