Jasper Johns. Flag. 1954-55  (dated on reverse 1954)

Jasper Johns Flag 1954-55 (dated on reverse 1954)

Floor 5, Collection Galleries

“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. A critic of the time encapsulated this painting’s ambivalence, asking, “Is this a flag or a painting?”

Gallery label from 2011
Medium
Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels
Dimensions
42 1/4 x 60 5/8" (107.3 x 153.8 cm)
Credit
Gift of Philip Johnson in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Object number
106.1973
Copyright
© 2018 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Department
Painting and Sculpture