Coat Hanger, 1960 by Jasper Johns
Creating his own distinct style that was often minimalist, Johns' works are best described as a combination of Pop Art and Abstract expressionism without any drama or emotionality; with themes unpredictably commonplace and
functional. Coat Hanger is a 1960 lithograph by him that stays true to the banality of content so prevalent in his works. It is a simple portrayal of an everyday wired coat hanger hanging from a knob on a blotchy grey wall.
The hanger is like any unimpressive metallic hanger that leaves a weak shadow of itself on the wall.
A literal glance at the work throws up a basic two-dimensional presentation of a very simple household prop. This view is however immensely distant from Johns' attempt to make the viewer play with his sight and reassess the relationship between 'seeing and knowing, seeing and saying, seeing and believing'. It makes the curious onlooker reevaluate his relationship with this apparently simplistic object while also reconsidering his position vis-à-vis the space that this hanger is placed in.
The impact of this mundane vision is intensified as a result of the contrast between the scrawny hangar and the wide patchy background with its bold yet messy brushstrokes; this effect makes the work something to be mulled over rather than being merely observed briefly. The piece adheres to a linear and uniform style, a trademark of Johns' modernist minimalism.
Johns' works frequently denied conventional artistic aesthetics and this work is no different in the digression it makes from traditional art forms. Coat Hanger, despite its lack of grandeur, mirrors the volatile nature of Johns himself who in 1954 was rumored to have destroyed most of his artwork in an attempt to establish himself as an artist; as opposed to merely striving to becoming one. Likewise the Coat Hanger is an instinctive expression through which Johns destroys conventional artistic expectations and establishes art out of an object of daily practical use.