In early March 1969, a sculpture by Marc Morrel of a pillow made of US flags hanging in chains brought the cops to the Decatur Arts Center in central Illinois. The director and president of the board were charged with flag desecration, and the work was confiscated.
The traveling group show, titled, “Patriotic Images in American Art,” was organized by Elizabeth C. Baker, managing editor of Art News Magazine, for the American Federation of Arts, and had been shown in previous venues around the country without incident. @br_tton tweeted the story after finding it in the AFA’s files at the Archives for American Art.
The two men fought the charges as unconstitutional restriction of free speech, but it would be twenty years before another artist, Dread Scott, could get enough judges to agree. But that’s another story.
Because just look at Doug Gauman’s photo for the Decatur Herald’s feature on the exhibition, showing a man looking at “Flag in Chains”: doesn’t that flag in the background look like a Jasper Johns?
And so it should. The AAA file doesn’t have a checklist of the show, but the Herald’s story mentions the title of the 48-star throwback: “Jasper Johns Flag for 7th Ave. Garment Rack.” That Johns flag is by Elaine Sturtevant.
I don’t have her CR handy, but until now this has been the only image of the works in this show, her first, at the Bianchini Gallery (later the site of Ubu Gallery on East 78th St). But it sounds like this Johns Flag went on a nationwide tour, extended title and all. Now on the internet, for the first time ever!