Greenwich Village Gazette


Poster by Faith Ringgold
The Judson Flag Show 1970:
actually called The People's Flag Show
by Louis Harriman, Jr.

In September 1970 a New York City Art Dealer, Steven Radich, was arrested by federal agents on charges of Violating the Desecration Of The Flag Law. His crime was exhibiting the anti war artwork of American sculptor, Marc Morell. A few Greenwich Villagers took the matter into their own hands and may the rest be history.

 

Never before, to the best of my knowledge, have thousands of artists agreed to create artwork using the same theme! It is just unheard of in the annals of history, as far as I know. But such a thing happened in Greenwich Village back in 1970. A small group, having heard of the Radich/Morell case, began organizing , anonymously, in late September. The Vietnam War was still raging and would not end until 1973. The Black Panther party was still a viable defense idea, there was a mood of radical chic in the Village. The Weathermen, Jim Morrison, SDS, Abbie Hoffman, even Jerry Rubin. Louis Abolofia! Names that recall the adventure of war resistance!

These anonymous artists went and addressed groups like the Art Workers Coalition, at their offices over Gem's Spa on Second Avenue, in the East Village. They went from art school to art school in the city, spreading the message. Eventually they took their message to the Reverend Howard Moody, Pastor of the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, and he agreed to house the exhibition of works that use the flag as subject in his sanctuary.

The whole idea was that the federal authorities would have to arrest this former Marine Chapel and respected Baptist clergyman, as they had arrested Radich the gallery owner. They would be hesitant to arrest a Baptist minister, and an ex-marine at that, for flag desecration. That wouldn't have gone well in the Nixon presidency era. Their refusal to arrest Rev. Moody would provide grounds for a suit that would have shown failure of precedence, and could have overturned the flag desecration law for all times. But the little group of determined artists who started this, and the thousands of artists whose work was displayed had a real chance of challenging this unconstitutional law. But there was a conspiracy afoot.......within...!

 

Three members of the Art Workers Coalition saw this as an opportunity to make names for themselves. Faith Ringgold, Jon Hendricks and Jon Tosh. Their egos got the best of them and they wheedled their names into the newspaper just before the show opened. Tosh used to prance about calling himself "The King of Belgium in Exile" if that tell you anything about them.

The original group as well as rev. Moody were horrified. the entire project had been jeopardized. The opening night came, replete with NBC White Paper, a show that was competing with the new 60 Minutes on CBS. The bare sanctuary of the Judson Church was hung with thousands of art works by famous and unknown artists who had used elements of the American Flag in their works. It was a beautiful and patriotic sight to behold. Sure enough, the Judson Three, as they tried to name themselves, announced their leadership over the loudspeakers that night. And the rest is history. The Federal agents arrested Ringold, Hendricks and Tosh, closed the show and that was that. The best laid plans.....and so goes the real story of the Peoples Flag Show, another Greenwich Village history maker...and you read it here in the Greenwich Village Gazette!

Copyright 1997. All rights reserved.

 

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