‘That is Not America’s Flag:’ Artworks problem what it means to be from the US

Written by Stephanie Becker, CNNLos Angeles From the time the Continental Congress gave the celebs and stripes its stamp of approval in 1777 amid the American Revolution, the flag of the US of America has been an emblematic image of patriotism; a picture of nationwide satisfaction displayed in entrance of properties, waved at parades and raised with solemnity in ceremonies. However, when flown the wrong way up, burned, or manipulated in coloration and design, the flag can even ship a much more subversive message. A brand new exhibition on the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, titled “That is Not America’s Flag,” seeks to discover this dichotomy by displaying a sequence of works centered on the flag, questioning what it means to be American at the moment.A response to George Floyd’s killingConceived through the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, workers started work on the exhibition remotely in 2020 as protests erupted following the homicide of George Floyd and the deaths of different Black Individuals by the hands of police. With demonstrations taking place simply blocks from the museum, Broad curator and exhibition supervisor Sarah Loyer mentioned she was motivated “to be extra aware of that second and what was taking place in our metropolis and our nation and all over the world.” Jasper Johns, “Flag,” (1967). Credit score: Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights SocietyLoyer mentioned the crew initially centered on two items within the assortment — Jasper Johns’ “Flag” from 1967 and the newly acquired 1990 “African-American Flag” by David Hammons. Johns painted “Flag” on the peak of Vietnam conflict protests, embedding newspaper clippings in regards to the conflict inside a portray of the flag. Months later, Congress handed the Flag Safety Act of 1968.Twenty years later, the Supreme Court docket took up a case of flag desecration, after a person was arrested for burning a US flag. The courtroom dominated it was an act of “symbolic speech,” protected by the First Modification. Quickly after, in 1990, Hammons created “African American Flag,” re-imagining the symbol by changing the normal colours with the crimson, black and inexperienced of the Pan-African flag. Loyer mentioned Hammons’ model challenges viewers to query who the flag represents. “It is good in its simplicity,” she mentioned, including, “it turns into this actually iconic art work as a result of it nonetheless waves patriotically.” David Hammons, “African American Flag,” (1990). Dyed cotton. The Broad Artwork Basis. Credit score: David HammonsAfter months of debate, the museum settled on a bunch of twenty-two artists and their wide-ranging interpretations of the flag. The exhibition options historic works corresponding to Dorothea Lange’s {photograph} of a bunch of youngsters posing with the flag in a Japanese internment camp in California throughout World Warfare II and a piece by 95-year-old sculptor Betye Saar which mounts the picture of a Black World Warfare I soldier on a tombstone with a US flag. Extra modern additions embrace “Further Worth (After Venus)” — a self-portrait by Genevieve Gaignard, who photographed herself in entrance of the flag in a “Thug Life” T-shirt and with a McDonald’s fries field in hand. A Emblem for America The title of the present was impressed by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s animated billboard, “A Emblem for America,” which was first displayed in Instances Sq. in 1987. The art work flashed up photos of the US adopted by a map define of North, South and Central America in a commentary about the usage of the phrase America to explain the US. “I had arrived in 1982 and I used to be shocked to find that within the every day language of individuals on this nation (they) would discuss with ‘America, America, America,’ (however) they weren’t excited about or speaking in regards to the continent, they have been solely speaking in regards to the US,” mentioned Jaar in a cellphone interview.” He added: “Language will not be harmless and language is at all times a mirrored image of geopolitical actuality. So principally, as a result of the US is so highly effective, inside the continent, it dominates the continent, financially, culturally.” Alfredo Jaar, “A Emblem for America,” (1987). Credit score: Alfredo Jaar/Artists Rights SocietySince the unique work was first proven, it has come to tackle completely different meanings. In response to Jaar, viewers have seen the piece as an anti-Trump message and a name for extra pro-immigration insurance policies. “You create a piece. It’s proven at a sure second in historical past, inside a sure context. Time modifications or context modifications and other people begin … projecting different concepts. And it is completely wonderful,” he mentioned. A private perspective A few of the strongest works on show are additionally probably the most private. Twenty years in the past, mixed-media artist Hank Willis Thomas’ cousin Songha was shot and killed throughout a theft exterior a Philadelphia nightclub. Thomas turned his private tragedy right into a sequence of items evoking the US flag, however with 1000’s of stars symbolizing the victims of gun violence.Because the nation reels from one other tragic capturing, this time in Buffalo, New York, the 2018 piece feels painfully related at the moment. Cascading onto the museum flooring is “15,580,” an set up that Thomas mentioned represents lives misplaced. “They’re falling stars and I needed to commemorate their lives,” he mentioned. “We’ve not come to a wholesome manner of actually memorializing them.” As for why he felt compelled to work with the picture of the US flag, Thomas defined: “It means a lot to so many alternative folks, it is essential to interact with it and to overview it, to ponder what it means to our society, previous, current and future.” Hank Willis Thomas, “15,580,” (2018). Credit score: Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman GalleryElsewhere within the exhibition, Wendy Pink Star’s set up “The Indian Congress” references a landmark assembly of 35 Native American nations in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. The occasion coincided with the Trans-Mississippi and Worldwide Exposition, a good showcasing the nation’s agriculture and business to the world, and as a part of this system of occasions, guests have been provided the possibility to see the Congress delegates as in the event that they have been some form of attraction — exploiting the Native American folks with excursions of their encampments and staged reenactments. Pink Star, who’s from Montana and of Apsáalooke descent, gathered historic portrait images from the occasion to show on two lengthy tables, reconvening the Congress members in a distinct, extra respectful, gentle. However as a reminder of the colonial energy play on the time, the show tables are festooned with US flags and patriotic bunting. Pink Star mentioned the hands-on expertise of reducing every {photograph} and studying the names and histories of every particular person made it private for her: “It is so essential that Native folks and Native voices are humanized.”Wendy Pink Star, “The Indian Congress,” (2021). Blended media. Joslyn Artwork Museum. Credit score: Colin Conces”What’s essential about reveals like that is that it is presenting historical past and it isn’t silencing sure narratives, and … I believe that might make you much more proud to be an American. It is vitally essential we not neglect our historical past and together with our brutal historical past. It is solely going to deliver us therapeutic,” Pink Star mentioned.Whereas the artworks on show all take a important take a look at the flag, patriotism and what it means to be American, Loyer doesn’t consider the artists are being disrespectful. “When any artist engages the flag, they depend on an assumed data of what the flag might stand for. So typically that’s liberty and justice and freedom. I see these works believing wholeheartedly in these ideas … and I additionally see the works as methods to problem us, to suppose extra deeply about these topics, to consider historical past.” “This Is Not America’s Flag,” runs Might 21 – September 25, 2022 on the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. High picture: “Further Worth (After Venus)” by Genevieve Gaignard