Thursday, January 7, 2010


"One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag," Johns said, "and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it." Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a quivering surface of lumps and smears. The legible newspaper scraps beneath the tactile surface—some dating from 1955 and 1956, when Johns repaired the painting—lend the timeless, public icon historical specificity. While this image is something "the mind already knows," Johns acknowledged, its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection. A critic of the time encapsulated this painting's ambivalence by asking, "Is this a flag or a painting?"(m0ma)

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