Laying in the bathtub one day, Jasper Johns contemplated what he described as a series of images that ran “through my head without any connectedness that I could see.” Racing Thoughts (1983) contains elements of this scene, such as the hanging khaki pants and running faucet. It also features the subjects of John’s musings, including a puzzle-portrait of his longtime dealer, Leo Castelli, a pot by ceramicist George Ohr, a lithograph by Barnett Newman, and reproduction of the Mona Lisa — all influences on John’s artistic development.
By arranging these images in this way, seemingly affixed to the faux-wood-grain background with trompe l’oeil tape, thumbtacks and a protruding nail, he links them to his career-long preoccupation with illusionism and ambiguity. Disparate though the composition’s elements may be, they are united by a complex web of art historical and personal associations that conjure an image of the artist himself.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum in NYC.