In the present work, the colors of the left-hand flag are more saturated and the lines comparably dense, while the inks used for the flag on the right were combined with a varnish adding intensity and luster. Johns was well-versed in exploring the replication of imagery within a composition with almost indiscernible differences. The distinctions between right and left-hand flags mirror that of his earlier painting Two Flags, on which Flags I is based.
Jasper Johns has revisited the flag over 100 times. It has been repeated and repackaged for various media with tremendous visual impact again and again. While the American flag holds a quasi-religious status in the American consciousness, Johns has remained tight-lipped regarding any political or social readings into his recurrent depictions. Richard Field writes that the objects Johns employs become secondary and the significance of his work can be found in the physicality of his surfaces, in the act of making marks and in his choice of materials. Or in the artist’s words,
“The painting of a flag is always about a flag, but it is no more about a flag than about a brushstroke, or about the physicality of paint.”
(Exh. Cat., London, Anthony D’Offay Gallery, Jasper Johns Flags, 1996, p. 9)
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