Magazine December 27, 2021, Issue

Taking a Second Look with Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns, Flags (1965) (© 2021 Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society/Photograph courtesy of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, New York)
A tribute to our cacophonous and commercial republic

Philadelphia & New York

The first thing you see is the famous flag. The painting hangs at the entrance to the exhibition devoted to Jasper Johns at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since the 1950s, when Johns unveiled this secular icon, commentators have thrust their interpretations upon the red, white, and blue image. Is it a statement about Cold War geopolitics? An ironic condemnation of patriotism? A cry for freedom of expression in an era of McCarthyism? A close look reveals an underlayer of newsprint, faintly visible beneath the encaustic that produces a lively texture of visible brushstrokes. The content of

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This article appears as “Flag Man” in the December 27, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

In This Issue

A Defense of the West

Books, Arts & Manners


The Week

The Week

China’s oppression of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Hong Kongers, on top of its oppression of the mass of its people, makes it unfit to host the Olympic Games.


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