October 05, 1987 12:00 PM

by Kit Hinrichs

Sometimes books get published on sheer whimsy and not much else. Take Stars & Stripes. Last year graphic designer Kit Hinrichs, a fervent collector of American flags, had the starry-eyed idea to ask 96 international designers and graphic artists to interpret Old Glory. Weightier types have had the same impulse. Jasper Johns produced a masterly series on the American flag in the ’50s. These latest Stars and Stripes honor the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. Some are clever, often in a superficial way, and one—of a red, white and blue kite—is downright joyous. But a few flags go a long way, and after flipping through the book, one’s spirits, well, flag. A handful of the entries are severe and old-fashioned in a New England way, like the sharp-edged assemblage Chris Hill put together of red, white and blue pencils. Sandra McHenry’s cubist-like construction, created with Polaroids of a flag flapping in the breeze, seems derivative of David Hockney’s photocollages. A more original view comes from the Japanese-born Kinuko Craft, who paints the flag as a landscape with striped billowing hills. The looniest is Ron Sullivan’s cloth work. White button-down shirts and red ties stand in for the stripes, while a blue cowboy shirt serves as background for the stars. The least appealing interpretation is Primo Angeli’s collage of a man in red Jockey shorts, tennis socks and a flapping white shirt leaping through the air against a blue backdrop featuring red and white legs. The sweetest and closest in feeling to dear Old Glory is a flag made of red, white and blue cloth with white map pins as stars. Its visual kinship to the original leads one to conclude that, in the end, some symbols will always outlast the competition. (Chronicle, paper, $16.95)

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