Work of the Week – “Mirrored Flag” by James Rosenquist

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

by Jason T. PerryMirrored Flag

This week’s Work of the Week is Mirrored Flag by American artist, James Rosenquist.

The American flag has been an iconic symbol for over 200 years. Soldiers look and see the men and women who have died for the flag. Leaders might see their political stance inside of it. To some, the American flag symbolizes a foreign and far away land, while to others it means home. Whatever the viewer sees in the flag, it seems Rosenquist has done his job. The beauty of art is that it can hold multiple meanings, and the American flag is a perfect image to gain a wide range of interpretations.

Rosenquist has adapted many popular images into fine art over the years. During his early career, he painted billboards in Times Square and other locations within New York. In 1960, Rosenquist translated his skills of sign painting techniques to large-scale paintings. This experimentation came just in time as the Pop Art movement quickly boomed into popularity. Rosenquist has led a successful career turning popular images into fine works of art.

Mirrored Flag is a print made in 1971, and it seems the mirrored image might have been inspired from his childhood growing up in North Dakota., quotes Rosenquist speaking about his childhood:

“Living in the Plains, you’d see surreal things; you’d see mirages,” says Rosenquist. “I’m sitting on the front porch, as a little kid at sunset, and the sun is in back of me, and walking across the horizon is a Trojan horse four stories tall. I go ‘Uh oh—what’s that?’ So I run into the house and say, ‘Look! Look at the big horse!’ It was the neighbor’s white stallion, which had got loose, caught the light in the heat, and it looked four stories tall. These kinds of little things make, I think, the curiosity, or the inquisitiveness, that make and artist.”

Imagine looking out at the Plains in North Dakota and watching the flag sail in the wind. The view changes, as a glance towards the horizon completely changes the perspective of the flag. Rosenquist shows how the mirrored flag would look against a shiny moon and a dark blue sky.

The reverse image (the bottom half of the piece) reveals that its the American flag flying high in a dramatic stormy sky. Possibly, Mirrored Flag is a representation that the American flag will always fly high, even on the darkest days. Whether that’s the case or not, Rosenquist demonstrates another example of how to make such a beautiful iconic image more special.

Artwork above: James Rosenquist, Mirrored Flag, 1971, Lithograph with Mylar foil on paper, 29 x 22.3 inches. Print. Museum purchase.