Flags

Flags, 1968 Jasper Johns The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Flags, 1968
Jasper Johns
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jasper Johns, a famous American artist who is often called an originator of the Neo-Dada movement, created this piece, Flags, in 1968. It was made using lithography and on home-made paper. Johns is famous for using flags in many of his pieces, and these flags have been interpreted to have a variety of meanings. In fact, some have wondered whether the point of the flags is that they are open to continual reinterpretation. Unlike many Dada artists, such as Duchamp, who use found objects as their art, Johns creates everyday objects out of fine-art materials. However, like many Dadaists, Johns seems to have an anti-war sentiment to his art. This piece in particular, created in the midst of the Vietnam war, seems to question what it means to be American. If you stare at the white dot in the center of the green and orange flag, and then glance down at the ghostly flag beneath it,  you can see a slight red/white/blue tinge in the bottom flag. But these colors are only fleeting, and this ghostly flag is disappearing off the page. Johns seems to suggest that American identity is disappearing, or perhaps changing (for the worse). I think this is a powerful, and beautiful, statement about the construction of national identity and how this identity is changed when your disagree with major decisions made by your own government–such as participating in a violent and costly war.

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