This Independence Day, See How 15 Artists Have Reinterpreted the American Flag Throughout History

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, and David Hammons are just a few artists who've used Old Glory in their work.

A Sotheby's employee poses with Jasper Johns's Flag. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.
A Sotheby's employee poses with Jasper Johns's Flag. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

There are few symbols as potent and provocative as the American flag, which countless artists have appropriated and reinterpreted in their work. There’s Dread Scott’s (literally) incendiary work What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?, which incited national outrage in 1989, followed by a Supreme Court case and landmark legislation. More recently, artists including Tania Bruguera, Alex Da Corte, Marilyn Minter, and Vik Muniz have contributed to the non-profit Creative Time’s ongoing project “Pledges of Allegience,” which features 16 commissioned works responding to the US flag.

To mark Independence Day, we’ve assembled 15 of our favorite artistic renditions of Old Glory.

 

1. Dread Scott, What Is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag? (1989)

Installation view of Dread Scott’s What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag? Courtesy of the artist.

 

2. Danh Vo, She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene (2009)

Danh Vo's She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene (2009). Collection Chantal Crousel, photo: Jean-Daniel Pellen, Paris. © Danh Vo, courtesy of the Guggenheim.

Danh Vo’s She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene (2009). Collection Chantal Crousel, photo: Jean-Daniel Pellen, Paris. © Danh Vo, courtesy of the Guggenheim.

 

3. David Cole, American Flag (Toy Soldiers #12) (2002)

David Cole’s American Flag (Toy Soldiers #12) (2002). Courtesy of the RISD Museum.

 

4. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Flag) (1979-80)

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Flag) (1979-80). Image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

 

5. Josephine Meckseper, Untitled (Flag 2) (2017)

Josephine Meckseper’s Untitled (Flag 2) (2017). Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli, courtesy of Creative Time.

 

6. AA Bronson, White Flag #8 (2015)

AA Bronson’s White Flag #8 (2015). Courtesy of the artist and Esther Schipper Gallery.

 

7. Andrew Schoultz, Gold Bombed Flag (gold splatter) (2017)

Andrew Schoultz’s Gold Bombed Flag (gold splatter) (2017). Courtesy of artnet auctions.

 

8. David Hammons, African American Flag (1990)

David Hammons’s African American Flag (1990). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

9. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions 66) (1991)

Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Questions, 66) (1991). Courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery.

 

10. Robert Longo, Untitled (Torn Flag) (2018)

Robert Longo, Untitled (Torn Flag) (2018). Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

Robert Longo, Untitled (Torn Flag) (2018). Image courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

 

11. Aaron Fowler, Black Flag (2015)

Aaron Fowler’s Black Flag (2015). Courtesy of the artist and the Rubell Family Collection.

 

12. Blake Fall-Conroy, Police Flags (2009)

Blake Fall-Conroy, Police Flags (2009).

Blake Fall-Conroy, Police Flags (2009). Courtesy of the Museum of Capitalism.

 

13. Sterling Ruby, FLAG (4791) (2014)

Sterling Ruby’s FLAG (4791) (2014). Photo courtesy of PVH.

 

14. Jonathan Horowitz, Three Rainbow American Flags for Jasper in the Style of the Artist’s Boyfriend (2015)

Jonathan Horowitz, Three Rainbow American Flags for Jasper in the Style of the Artist’s Boyfriend (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

 

15. Mel Ziegler, A Living Thing–Flag Exchange (2017)

“Mel Ziegler: A Living Thing – Flag Exchange” at Federal Hall. Courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli.

Mel Ziegler’s A Living Thing—Flag Exchange at Federal Hall. Courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli.


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