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Wally Bill Hedrick


Flower Flag
circa 1954

Oil on canvas
20.5 x 16.5 in. (52.07 x 41.91 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Wally Hedrick has a place all his own in the history of California art, or places might be more accurate, considering the diversity of his work. Robert Arneson considered him the godfather of funk art, the Bay Area’s highly personal and often absurdist sculpture of the late 1960s. Hedrick has also been credited as a progenitor of pop, conceptual, and kinetic art, crossing boundaries and creating hybrid art forms that are difficult to categorize (such as his “light machine,” which projected colored lights to the sounds of its electric keyboard). Hedrick’s free-spirited experimentalism can be traced to his roots in San Francisco’s counterculture, where cross-pollination of all the arts was encouraged in venues like the Six Gallery, which Hedrick cofounded. Hedrick is said to have personally invited Allen Ginsberg there in the fall of 1955 to read “Howl,” the poem that shook the literary world and ushered in the beat generation.

After seeing combat in the Korean War and experiencing the McCarthy era’s crackdown on “anti-Americanism,” Hedrick became deeply engaged in antiwar politics, along with other emotionally fraught subjects such as sex and religion. Flower Flag is an early example of the modified flags he produced in the 1950s as one of the country’s first artists to protest the US intervention in Asia. The flowers in place of stars are remarkably prescient of the “flower power” iconography omnipresent in the 1960s. These paintings, which include a crumpled American ag defaced with the word “peace,” contrast starkly with the later, far more famous flags of Jasper Johns, with their strategy of neutral appropriation. In a characteristically anticareerist gesture, Hedrick painted over most of these works with a greasy coat of black to hang in his installation Black Room (aka War Room) in 1967.

Susan Landauer

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This object has the following keywords:
  • flags - Pieces of cloth or other flexible material, usually attached along one side to a pole or cord, intended for such purposes as symbolizing a nation or organization, or as a means of signaling.
  • flower

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