Johns destroys everything : figuration, format, meaning, emotion. To go still further, he studies the variation in the perception of a painted or printed drawing with various techniques on various materials.
In 1960 Tanya Grosman invited him to experiment with her the lithography at the Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in West Islip NY. At that time Johns worked on the numbers 0 to 9 that he superimposed, each figure covering the entire surface of a sheet to create an illegible but colorful magma. The engraving makes an additional contribution to his theories. He is convinced.
In 1963 ULAE publishes in portfolio the numbers 0-9 by Johns. Now each figure is printed on a separate sheet 52 x 40 cm. A single stone is used for the whole series, a new figure replacing the previous one with three passes per numeral : black, gray and a different color for each number. Despite the mechanical preparation of the artwork, the achieved readability is different for each figure.
The edition is composed of 10 black portfolios, 10 gray portfolios and 10 color portfolios. The text is written by the art critic Robert Rosenblum convinced of the importance of the innovative vision of Johns. Rosenblum's copy of the very rare 0-9 color portfolio is estimated $ 600K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on April 27, lot 87.
The paradox continues. This artist without a message becomes the best illustrator of his time with regard to the printing technique. His masterpiece is the 1973 Flags I where the lithography executed with 31 screens reaches the texture quality of a painted work. A copy fetched $ 1.7M including premium at Christie's on April 26, 2016.
0-9 should not be confused with the Numeral Series published in black in 1968 in 70 copies and in colors in 1969 in 40 copies plus 11 artist's proofs. A black portfolio was sold for $ 410K including premium by Sotheby's on May 9, 2008. A color portfolio was sold for $ 720K including premium by Christie's on May 12, 2011.
SOLD for $ 970K including premium