Amerika, Oberwelt, 2018

 

White Heat
A.Best

Amerika marks a new body of work by artist Charlie Stein, and is a complex and historical response to today’s fluid nature of self-identity. Her paintings hung in a silver environment, and french fry sculpture, both revel in, and interrogate, the constructed nature of iconic American flag imagery. Drawn from a variety of photographic sources, Stein’s painting subjects are individuals wearing the American flag for divergent purposes. Music stars, European models, nationalists, and high school students on summer break are hung with equal status, in dialogue with one another. Often subtly desaturated, both wearer and flag have a kind of historical distance. These familiar images in their newly unstrident form manage to invoke a sense of subtle anxiety. In Grey American Flag (1960), Jasper Johns drained the American flag of color, revealing both its status as formal object, and the inherent flatness of the picture plane. Andy Warhol would later reduce American icons, in work such as Double Elvis (1963), into similarly flat visual surfaces. The uses of a flag are usually at odds with subtlety. What does it mean when such a symbol, attached to one’s personal identity, is drained of its power? Continue reading