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a_560x0In his half-century as one of the universally sanctified titans of modern art, Jasper Johns has led a private life, if not a reclusive one, shuttling between his homes in Connecticut and St. Martin with a circle of friends who are protective of him and guarded on his behalf. “He’s spent his whole life cultivating a certain air of mystery,” says David Ross, a friend of the artist and the former director of the Whitney. Those who still see him say Johns, now 84, can be a brilliant, charming presence, but also by turns slightly cool and prickly—the counter­weight, in temperament, of his ­vivacious late friend and partner Robert Rauschenberg. Another friend compares him to fellow introverts like Philip Roth and Philip Glass: superficially polite yet diffident—and, at moments, abrupt and even biting. The work comes first, and they work alone. At Vulture