Stars and Stripes: Flags From “Soul of a Nation”

by Christopher Blay July 3, 2020
Timothy E. Washington, American, born 1946, One Nation Under God, 1970

Timothy E. Washington (American, b. 1946), One Nation Under God, 1970. Engraving on aluminum with added color Sheet: 35 x 48 in. Museum Purchase with Museum Associates Funds, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Seeing a traveling exhibition in two different cities can add depth and perspective to the works presented. Soul of A Nation: Art In The Age of Black Power, is no different. I saw the exhibition last summer at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, and again last Saturday when it was previewed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

My review of the exhibition is forthcoming, but as we gear up to celebrate the Fourth of July, 2020, I couldn’t help but be drawn to works in the exhibition that depicted flags, or other Stars and Stripes that allude to America’s celebration of independence.

These flags show a different kind of patriotism: the kind that embraces the symbolism of hardiness and valor, purity and innocence — even as it holds those ideals to a higher standard. It’s one that demands the true-blue ideals of vigilance, perseverance, and justice for everyone under the banner.

David Hammons (American, b. 1943), Black First, America Second, 1970. Body print and screen print on paper, Sheet: 41 5/16 × 31 1/2 in. Tilton Family Collection.


About Martin, Mixed Media, 1975, The George Economou Collection

John Outterbridge (American, b. 1933), About Martin, 1975. Mixed Media. The George Economou Collection.


American People Series No. 18_The Flag is Bleeding- Faith Ringgold,American,born 1930

Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930), American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding, 1967. Oil on Canvas. Courtesy of the artist and ACA Galleries, New York.


The Devil and His Game,Kay Brown, American, 1932–2012. Paper and acrylic paint on canvasPhoto Credit-Tina Blay

Kay Brown (American, 1932–2012), The Devil and His Game, 1970. Paper and acrylic paint on canvas. Collection of Tina and Larry Jones. Photo credit: Tina Blay.


Traditional Hangup, Containment Series, 1969. Mixed Media. John Outterbridge, American, born 1933,Courtesy Tilton Gallery, NewYork

John Outterbridge (American, b. 1933), Traditional Hangup, 1969. Mixed media. Courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.


"Boy With Flag," Body Print and Silkscreen. David Hammons, American Born, 1943,Private Collection, Courtesy Tilton Gallery,NewYork

David Hammons (American, b. 1943), Boy With Flag, 1968. Body print and silkscreen. Private collection, courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.


American Gothic, Gordon Parks, from a video slideshow of The Black Photography Annual volumes 1 - 4

Gordon Parks (American, 1912 – 2006), American Gothic, 1942. From a video slideshow of “The Black Photography Annual volumes 1 – 4.”


Fred Hampton's Door 2, 1975 Acrylic paint on wood, Professor Dana Chandler

Dana Chandler (American, b. 1941), Fred Hampton’s Door 2, 1975. Acrylic paint on wood.


"Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree?" Benny Andrews, American 1930 - 2006. 1969, Oil paint, fabric, and zipper on canvas.

Benny Andrews, (American, 1930 – 2006), Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree?, 1969. Oil paint, fabric, and zipper on canvas.


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Pam Avoledo July 7, 2020 - 18:57

The Benny Andrews painting really hits home. The flag and patriotism has become perverted in current times. It’s great to see art examining it.


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