The African-American Flag Project

I-20 is pleased to present the fourth exhibition of Louis Cameron.  For this show, Cameron will exhibit a suite of thirteen acrylic paintings entitled The African-American Flag Project.  These paintings depict flags that were created to symbolically represent the African-American experience. Works from this series will also be presented by the artist as a solo project at the Armory Show.

The creation of these alternative flags suggested that African-Americans were outside the symbolic representation of the American flag. “Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon,” a song popularized in the 1920s, implied that black people lacked a symbol that embodied their pride and unity. Perhaps in response, Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association introduced the Pan-African Flag, which attempted to represent people of African descent worldwide.

However, beginning in the 1960s, some African-Americans felt that the Pan-African Flag did not fully represent the African-American experience, leading many to create their own flags.  The titles of the paintings in this exhibition refer to these individuals: The African American Flag of Inclusion (after Cecil Lee); The All American Flag, Mainlander (after Carl Sharif, Us For Once, Inc.); and The African American Flag (after David Hammons). Cameron has debuted this series of flag paintings at a time when there is a question as to whether an African-American flag is still necessary. The election of Barack Obama suggests that African-American identity is now, more than ever, a central part of the American identity. The appropriation of flags by an artist raises the central issue of identity with viewers.

Cameron’s 13 acrylic paintings, each measuring three by five feet, are the same number as the original 13 American colonies. The distinctive colors in the flags are true to their sources. In these works, the gesture of the brush strokes provides a visual contrast to the crisp edges of the geometry in the flags. This both reveals the handmade quality of the paintings and allows the color to operate symbolically with minimal distractions.

Louis Cameron had a recent solo exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum. His many group shows include Made in the USA, Pete’s Motors, The Berkshires (2009); Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2007); Branded and On Display, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois Champaign; Unlearn, Plug in ICA, Winnipeg (2006); Bearable Lightness…Likeness, PS1 Contemporary Art Center (2006); Collection in Context, The Studio Museum in Harlem; The Dakar Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Senegal (2006); Extreme Abstraction, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2005); Open House: Working in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum of Art (2004); Reactions, Exit Art, New York (2002); and Freestyle, The Studio Museum in Harlem and Santa Monica Museum of Art (2000).

Louis Cameron was born in 1973 in Columbus, Ohio. He was educated at the University of Southern California; received an MFA from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University; and has participated in the Artist-in-Residence Program at The Studio Museum of Harlem.