Jasper Johns, Flag, 1967
GINSBURG (ALLEN GINSBURG’S AMERICA) ARCHIVAL
America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
America I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Shortly before Allen Ginsburg wrote “America,” Jasper Johns returned home from military service in Korea and made his first flag painting. At the height of the Cold War, being an American-- the very concept of America--was a complex and provocative subject.
Almost a decade later, as the Vietnam War reached a boiling point, Jasper Johns made this Flag, its agitated surface built up with encaustic, a pigmented hot liquid wax, and bits of paper.
So Jasper Johns’ ‘Flag,’ is it patriotic? Or is there something else going on?
[SOUND FX fireworks mixed with sounds of protest, helicopters, (a mix of sounds that represent the unrest of the time)]
The idea of the flag came to Johns in a dream one night, and in the morning, he gathered the materials to begin it. Encaustic appealed to him because it held its shape and set almost immediately, creating a moment frozen in time.
Johns famously eschewed interpretation. He was interested in the flag not as a meaningful subject, but as something familiar, something that, as he put it, “the mind already knows.”
I enjoy how his message is mysterious. There's a lot to think about and it changes over time.