Great art gives new perspectives, both literally and figuratively.
Jasper Johns’s maps are typical examples of works that take a familiar form and give it an unusual treatment, in order to make us look more closely at what we hardly pay attention to anymore because we have seen it so many times:
Jasper Johns, Map (1961), Museum of Modern Art, New York
Here the standard school book map of the United States becomes a strange image. The blue of the sea is also used for parts of the land, like the state of Texas, and the red of parts of the land is used for most of the sea in the Gulf of Mexico. There seems to be no rule or system for the colors of the different states or bodies of water, which is also a characteristic of the 1962 and 1963 maps:
Jasper Johns, Map (1962), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Jasper Johns, Map (1963), Private collection
Johns’s images play with the colors and conventions usually associated with maps, which makes us look more carefully than usual, and the more we look, the more we see and think.
The maps are confusing, and that’s the point. We take so much of what’s around us for granted that, sometimes, it takes an unusual image to jolt us awake and make us look again.