In the 240 years since it was officially adopted, the American flag has served artists well. Jasper Johns rendered it all in white. Claes Oldenburg reimagined it as driftwood. Keith Haring turned it into a dance party, while Barbara Kruger turned it into a statement, literally. The flag, in other words, is a remarkably adaptable medium. So when the public art foundation Creative Time wanted to make a statement, they raised a flag. Sixteen of them, actually, designed by artists including Yoko Ono, Robert Longo, and Marilyn Minter.
“We wanted to give artists a chance to create, from scratch, flags that rewrite history from each artist’s perspective,” says Katie Hollander, Creative Time’s executive director. “It’s a chance to call attention around an issue they are passionate about. While some flags have dark themes, there’s hope here too: They want us to recognize these issues as ours collectively.” Starting June 14 (Flag Day), the Pledges of Allegiance initiative will go into effect, with the flags appearing around New York. Creative Time has also teamed with Opening Ceremony for a line of T-shirts featuring the designs. Several, including Josephine Meckseper’s, shown here, riff on Old Glory herself.
“I think each artist saw these flags as a very serious opportunity to symbolically relay what’s important to them,” says Hollander, who points to Ahmet Ögüt’s as a particular favorite. “It’s in black-and-white, and says, ‘If you’d like to see this flag in colors, burn it.’ Ahmet is asking us plainly to question this reverence, or to at least know what a flag stands for, and why we’re protecting it. It’s a sharp critique. And a welcome one.”