Throughout art history, the flag has been a poignant emblem for artists to represent national pride or speak to the country's adversities. As today marks Independence Day in The United States, here are a few recognizable artists that have used the American flag as their subject matter.
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas, Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Three Flags is one of the most recognizable works by Johns as he expresses the idea of the American dream. This encaustic painting was created two years after the artist’s discharge from the army inspired by a dream of what the fixed symbol represented to him in the year 1954. Johns layers the iconic image to invite a closer inspection from the viewer as he pushes the boundaries of abstraction and representation. Johns was part of the neo-dada movement that pre-cursed pop art as they appropriated common and overlooked objects into their works.
Untitled (Flag), 1988. Serigraph Poster for American Music Festival. Courtesy of THE Keith Haring Foundation and Gladstone Gallery.
Haring produced Untitled (Flag) in 1988. His iconic figures are recognizable throughout his work as they are seen here dancing on the American flag. Within his work, Haring uses animated colours and motifs to create his own visual language. His work was often an emotional response to a political or social event.
Roy Lichtenstein, Forms In Space, 1985. Courtesy of The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
In Forms in Space, Lichtenstein uses his iconic screen printing technique with painterly motions to distort the perspective lines of the flag. In this piece, the artist highlights the relationship between machine manufacturing against a painter's hand to create tension in the work.
Nam June Paik, Visual Flag, 1996. Photo Courtesy of Cathy Carver and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Visual Flag showcases flickering images that relate to America. The imagery of stars, U.S. presidents, and other curated events in America are seen up close while from afar, they cumulate to produce an American Flag. The artist strived to bring awareness that what we witness on TV informs and shapes not only are individual identity but shapes the perspective of America as a whole. Using the American Flag as an emblem of the country's identity she shows how actions can make up how we are perceived as a nation.
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions), 1990. Courtesy of Elon Schoenholz
Kruger is a conceptual artist that is known for her declarative texts. Her work takes inspiration from mass media and often challenges political and popular culture. The artist uses her bold and often aggressive texts to open a dialogue with her viewers. In this work, she confronts issues of civic engagement and political responsibility within the US. This installation is supported by an anonymous source.