‘Flag above White with Collage’ is a painting by Jasper Johns that dates back to 1955. It was the first of Johns’ works to be acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The painting’s white background is layered, and its minimalist composition features a flag motif, but without the characteristic red, blue, and white color elements.
Johns’ incorporation of encaustic allowed him to expose multiple layers in his creation process. His choice adds depth to the piece as observers could see traces of newspaper beneath the painted surface. ‘White Flag,’ which drained coloration from an iconic symbol suggesting strength or power, often seen flying over buildings and homes around America was painted in 1954-55 at a time when John’s nation faced many challenges.
Jasper Johns was one of the few artists during his era who utilized familiar subjects like flags in unconventional ways that were simultaneously politically relevant and philosophically interesting for modern art historians today. ‘Flag above White with Collage’ is an example that presents dichotomies embedded in national symbols while challenging audiences to rethink traditional interpretations of well-known designs or objects through artistic expression, providing discussion points about American ideals today.