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You Can Buy Jasper John’s  Reproduction Art from Galerie Dada



Star spangled banners

It may be the worst decade in US history, but America 's greatness is still reflected in its art.
It's hard to be anti-American if you like modern art, not least because the most influential artwork of the past 60 years is an American flag. Jasper Johns made his Flag in 1954-5 by building up wax-based encaustic paint and cut-up newspapers; it is subtle and poetic and there they fly - the stars and stripes. Johns' Flag, the true source of every contemporary readymade, says everything you need to know about the story of art since 1950.

To admire contemporary art is to admire America ; anyone who believes differently is kidding themselves. After 1945, European modernism shrank to a grim gathering of ashes. Manhattan leapt into the void. Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman created modern art with more elbow room than its European antecedents. Something about abstract expression liberated creativity even in artists like Johns, who rejected the movement. The sheer number of first-rate artists the US produced in the 50s and 60s is stunning. From Pollock to Warhol to Donald Judd, they made British and French artists look mediocre.

Here's a paradox. Ten years ago, this story seemed to be ending. Yet here we are, deep into the worst decade in modern US history, and its art looks great.

 It would be absurd to think the grandeur of US art is a credit to George Bush. But he can't stop it, and hatred of him shouldn't blind us to it. What has happened is that certain artists have emerged as masters in the same league as those great names of the 50s. Brice Marden and Richard Serra were born in 1938 and 1939 respectively, and were contemporaries at Yale. Their abstract art is as strong as anything in the American heritage.

Meanwhile, precisely because he never did court celebrity, the young US sculptor and filmmaker Matthew Barney has emerged as an authentic star. This spring Barney and Marden have major exhibitions in Europe. 


American art is great today because it's true to its past and proud of its history - proud of its Americanness. Does this mean anything, politically? To get close to the truth we need to look at our own prejudices. If you reject America and all its works you have to be suspicious of modernism. Conversely, to be modern is to be a little bit American. It doesn't do to take the course that always tempts the left: to choose to imagine that all really great American culture is critical of America . Bob Dylan once shocked European fans out of that fantasy by unfurling a giant stars and stripes. Obviously American art could only be American. Philip Roth may have won some new readers by producing a novel, The Plot Against America, that seemed to warn of American fascism, but get deeper into his oeuvre and you'll soon find how little he enjoyed living in Britain
and how much he despises Jane Austen. Even radical US artists and writers are American, and believe their own culture has value. They're right.

I once interviewed the painter Frank Stella and was shocked by how minor he considered British culture to be. He told me Moby-Dick was a far better novel than Bleak House. To read Herman Melville is, it's true, to discover a voice that has no European precedent; that voice resounds in American art. It has been analysed and admired by Europeans, from DH Lawrence writing his Studies in Classic American Literature to Damien Hirst making a work that combined Judd's box-like sculptural manner with the content of John Singleton Copley's American painting Watson and the Shark.

American art is democratic, classless, sublimely free. It is the world's best. One day when the war is over, and the mendacity it breeds gives way to some sort of sanity, we will have to acknowledge that American ways have added something real and unique to human civilisation. Its art is proof of that.