Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

From The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965, Where We Are

Apr 28, 2017

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Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

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Scott Rothkopf: A lot of people have debated whether this image is patriotic on the one hand or somehow critical of the American government, and part of its enduring appeal is that we just can’t decide. It’s interesting to think that seeing so many flags could recall parades, patriotism, a kind of festive embrace of American culture, and certainly this painting was made at a very interesting time in American history if we think of the triumphant feeling after World War II, as well as the fear of the Cold War, the repression of the 1950s era. In that way the flag could seem almost oppressive in this case, this kind of exaggerated image of American government, of patriotism, of jingoism, which sometimes stands for things that are not quite as positive as we would like them to be.