The Four Seasons is one of art’s primal subjects. It’s attracted painters ancient and modern, East and West, and the mythological and literary references that have piled around it over the centuries have yielded some of the most deeply layered and urbane images in the history of art. But the appeal of the Seasons theme remains, at heart, very simple—something anyone can understand. The Seasons is about the changes that overtake the planet and all of us who live on it. It’s about the leaden gray mood of the dead of winter; the first rush of warmth and expansiveness that arrives in February or March; the heavy luxuriance of high summer; and that clarifying of the sky to a clear, deep, flat blue that signals the coming of fall.

The first—and absolutely damning—thing to be said about Jasper Johns’s new Seasons, which was at Leo Castelli in February,

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