What do we envision when we think of America in 2020?
Election, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, Lockdown, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence and the fly… these are just some of the words that have infiltrated social media platforms, podcasts and news outlets reporting on the USA. Anxiety is rampant not only for the mounting number of positive cases, new lockdown measures and increasing job insecurity, but for America’s future. Although a democratic country, America’s voting system has made elections notoriously difficult to predict (cue painful flashback to 2016).
So, while the world deep-breathes, downward-dogs and pours wine into the void of anxiety that has governed these past few months (and may well continue to do so), here are five individuals who America can truly celebrate as being successful products of the star-spangled state.
1. Edward Hopper
First up is American realist, printmaker, watercolourist and oil master, Edward Hopper. Born in 1882, Hopper’s depictions of modern America exposed both the grandiose industrial revolution of the turn of the century, and the darker corners of loneliness, paranoia and fear that gripped the early and mid 20th century. Hopper was known for both his urban and pastoral scenes, embracing the banal and transforming fleeting, usually-unacknowledged moments into masterpieces. Find out more about the artist here.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
2. Frank Stella
Frank Stella in front of his painting
A graduate of history, Frank Stella was inspired by fellow American artist, Jasper Johns, whose geometric forms paved the way for Stella’s maximalist artworks. A degree in history also inspired the artist, where his works were frequently tributes to bodies of literature and historic events. Stella continues to experience great success in his career. In May 2019, his work Point of Pines sold for an easy $28 million at Christie’s, setting a new auction record. Find out more about the artist here.
3. Keith Haring
Keith Haring’s works began in the subways of New York City, where outlines of human figures and dogs would dance across the blank spaces of advertisements and billboards. His vibrant discourse was quickly noticed by commuters, catapulting the artist to fame, leading him to explore more social and politically-charged themes such as homosexuality and the AIDS pandemic. In June 2019, Haring was included as one the inaugural 50 American "pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes" inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City's Stonewall Inn. Find out more about the artist here.
Keith Haring, NYC Pride Print
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982
Born in 1960 and of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Jean-Michel Basquiat first found fame as part of street art duo SAMO. Operating in Lower East Manhattan, the pair peppered the street with satirical phrases, calling into question social and economical injustices. Basquiat’s neo-expressionist paintings were soon exhibited and admired across the globe, in May 2017, Basquiat’s 1982 painting Untitled sold for $110.5 million, becoming one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased. Find out more about the artist here.
5. Jasper Johns
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns described his childhood as a place where “there were no artists and there was no art, so I really didn't know what that meant. I think I thought it meant that I would be in a situation different than the one that I was in." Art soon found its way to Johns, however, in the form of fellow artist and lover, Robert Rauschenberg. Johns currently lives in Sharon, Connecticut, and on the island of Saint Martin. Find out more about the artist here.
Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954