ARTFORUM Critics' Pick: June Edmonds
By —Suzanne Hudson
Installation view of JUNE EDMONDS: Allegiances & Convictions at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, 2019. Courtesy of Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. Photo by Michael Underwood.
Jasper Johns famously attributed the origin of his iconic painting of the American flag to a vision he had at night; likewise, June Edmonds arrived at her first stroke-by-stroke reconstitution of a flag through a dream she had in 2017, after she returned to her home town of Los Angeles from a residency in Paducah, Kentucky. In her case, though, it wasn't about the same stars and stripes; during her residency, while driving to Memphis, she had seen a wall-size Confederate flag—a looming, unapologetic beacon still standing on the Southern hillside—to which she later responded in a series of paintings. That body of work is now part of “Allegiances and Convictions,” Edmonds’s first show at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.
Made of thick, wet-looking bands of acrylic, many in brown skin tones, set into columns that redouble the orientation of their vertical supports, Edmonds’s “Flag Paintings,” 2017–, relate to her earlier Primary Theories, 2016, for which she conjured a range of browns amid tesserae-like units of other colors. The obdurate, overwhelmingly material pieces here line the walls like so many darkly reflective monuments to the episodes of American history—people and events—referenced in the titles (such as Claudette Colvin Flag, 2019, after the civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama).
A few unstretched paintings are also on view, hanging likeSam Gilliam’s fabric garlands, mourning alongside, and perhaps in solidarity with, the flags. Together, the works seem to be both registers of another time and heralds of recurring histories—most emphatically so withCase for Reparations Flag, 2019.