Flag (1954-1955) by Jasper JohnsPosted: March 28, 2014
Jasper Johns is one of most important and influential American born artist of the twentieth century, especially in pop, minimal and conceptual art movements. Johns’ Flag (1954-1955) is a painting of American flag in medium of encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood. The objects in his painting were things that are familiar, for example the American flag, target, ale cans, U.S. maps, and stencil, and also found objects in his studio and the things that he previously seen. His technique is consciously controlled rather than spontaneous.
“One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns has said of this work, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a surface of lumps and smears. The newspaper scraps visible beneath the stripes and forty-eight stars lend this icon historical specificity. The American flag is something “the mind already knows,” Johns has said, but its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection” (Jasper Johns).
I think, the American flag was his way to show patriotism (he was named after a military hero, Sergeant William Jasper, raised the flag in a brave action during the Revolutionary War). The meaning of the artwork will be distinguished from who is viewing the flag, which era they are from or where the viewer come from. This creates constant reinterpretation. So I think the use of familiar objects is quite effective for the artist to engage the viewers and inject their personal perceptions on the meaning of the artwork.
The close-up image above is to show his collage background (used newspaper and tickets) and encaustic technique in the Flag painting which sometime couldn’t be shown on re-production print.