Just In: Iconic Work by Jasper Johns

November 3, 2017

Art has long been a powerful vehicle for social activism. Its unique capacity to tackle complex issues surrounding subjects such as politics and civil rights in novel ways makes it a potent channel for communicating perspectives that might otherwise not find a salient platform.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Jasper Johns, Flag (Moratorium), 1969
Early 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

In the thick of the Vietnam War American artist Jasper Johns began creating his now iconic Flag works, largely in protest to America’s ongoing involvement in the conflict. He continued this motif later in response to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s relentless witch-hunt for alleged Communist and Socialist sympathizers in the United States. Johns’ Flag works remain relevant even today in their capacity to continually question, celebrate, and subvert an iconic emblem of American identity.

In works such as his 1969 lithograph, Flag (Moratorium), which will be offered in LAMA’s early 2018 auction, Johns takes the flag as his subject and turns it entirely on its head. The exchange of a red, white, and blue palette for one of green, black, and orange dramatically alters the quintessential emblem of American patriotism. This palette lends itself to a decidedly somber and patently military temper. Using loose lines, Johns’ flag evokes camouflage in the green fields of the flag’s stripes, while the black stripes overlaid on a green foundation suggest the black armbands typically worn on persons while in mourning, and a central, solitary pinhole in the middle of the flag summons associations with a grisly bullet hole. The stars on the flag are surrounded by a field of orange, which is likely a reference to the American military’s use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.

Johns was known for referring to his works as “facts,” while offering no additional interpretive information, so as to leave that up to viewers. “One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns once offered in reference to his Flag works, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Such straightforward, yet somehow still ambiguous remarks were characteristic of the artist’s commentary on his own works.  Flag (Moratorium) rings just as loud today as it did almost five decades ago.

Lot Information:

Jasper Johns
Flag (Moratorium)
Offset color lithograph on wove paper
#77 of 300
Published by the Committee Against the War in Vietnam
Edition lower left margin beneath image; signed lower right margin; printed “Copyright Jasper Johns, 1969″ lower right edge of sheet
Image: 17.125″ x 26″; Sheet (vis): 20.25″ x 28.75″; Frame: 21.125″ x 29.125”
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000

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