Everybody always thinks of Warhol as the king of Pop. And in some ways he was, as I was reminded this summer in San Francisco, looking back on images of superstars from the Factory. I always wonder a little what Warhol would have had to say about this period, as he was always a step ahead.
But lemme tell ya, if you want to get a good snoot of culture, get yourself out to the SF-MoMA. There was so much stuff to see, I haven’t felt like that since the time I was in the NY Met, where including everything else to the wonderful collection, the Met had a show of Cartier or Chanel. The SF-MoMA is the coolest. Wonderful architecture and a showing of the patron saint of Sante Fe, O’Keeffe (and Walker Evans), but a wonderful show of the work of Robert Frank and Richard Avedon. The Avedon show got people excited and enthused, as shows rarely do. It was a shame, that the wonderful installation, A Sac of Rooms, did not get the same response by most viewers.
Now, I won’t say all the other stuff, too, that floored me, including the wild Brazilian sculptor Neto’s pink thing (my niece said it looked like bubble gum!) and wonderful sculpture on the top floor, but some other real little gems. And there you will find one flag by Jasper Johns.
Frank and Johns go together in my head in some ways. They both reverberate as seekers out of the 50s. Frank was exploring America with his camera, in a way people would only start seeing and speaking about America a decade on. Johns with his flags and targets was beginning to put Pop together in his head. I think of that wonderful bronze Ballentine beer cans. But the flags always come to mind first, before that only cartoonists saw that bold, graphic image as something outside nationalism. Never irreverent, but in the same way that Warhol would go on to do the Marilyns, and Liz and the electric chair. Something iconic.
One has to take their hat off to Johns. More aesthetic than Warhol, more intellectual than Rauschenberg, Johns created and recreated many themes over and over again in his life. Maps, words, patterns, three dimensions repeat like a musician trying to create a perfect theme. Only Roy Lichtenstein could be compared in Pop as broader in his approach, and Oldenburg for being physically grander (i.e.-giant eraser in the sculpture garden in DC).
A little homage done for the flags. Thanks, Mr. Johns.