3/27: Jasper Johns, Flag
Toying with the idea that objects can be made to appear to be something else comes this next artist. Born in South Carolina, Jasper Johns was a man who took objects and seemed to “create” them out of canvas. Using a technique called painting in “encaustic”, Johns would melt down beeswax and add color pigments to either wood or canvas. This would give his paintings the semblance of being the objects that he was painting, to the point of where even critics commented on the ambiguity of the works. His Flag was a paragon of this type of work, as it combined his encaustic style with Pop Art’s obsession with signs. He chose a flag as his subject because it was flat, meaning he could therefore ignore all the other elements necessary to describe depth and the figure/ground relationship.
Clearly a painting, the viewer is able to see scraps of newspaper underneath the layers of paint. However, because of the nature of the subject, the work seems to become its own version of the subject, an ambiguity explored much in Pop Art. This kind of withdrawal of the artist from the work led on to inspire other artists of the 1960’s onward.
On a side note: It’s interesting to notice that the flag only had 48 stars, as Alaska and Hawaii were not added as states yet.
A more specific look at the work and what comprises it:
Learn more about Encaustic Painting:
A little Background on Jasper Johns and his works: