Lot 24
  • 24

Jasper Johns

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jasper Johns
  • Flags I (ULAE 128)
  • screenprint in colors
  • sheet: 699 by 889 mm 27 1/2 by 35 in
Screenprint in colors, 1973, signed in pencil, dated and inscribed 'AP 5/7', an artist's proof aside from the edition of 65, on J.B. Green paper, co-published by the artist and Simca Print Artists, Inc., New York, framed


Craig F. Starr Associates, New York
Private Collection, California

Catalogue Note

31 screens were employed in the production of Flags I, Jasper Johns’ complex and ambitious 1973 print. The work returns to a familiar icon for the artist but here two American flags appear vertically with an intricate and heavily layered surface of marks akin to the buildup of brushstrokes. Underlying the impasto of red, white and blue are flatter areas of green, orange and black. This subtle use of complementary hues engages the viewer’s eye and creates the perception of a richer, deeper surface. Customarily, screenprints tended to be flat and hard-edged, seeking to diminish the role of the artist’s hand. However for Flags I, Johns collaborated with Simca Prints Artists, Inc., printers known for more painterly editions that defied the mechanical or commercial quality often associated with the medium. 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)