The painting New Glory Banner revisits a subject that Indiana first approached in 1963, in a limited edition felt banner distributed through Multiples, Inc. The artist’s earliest reworking of the American flag, also titled New Glory Banner, is a rectangle of red and white stripes with a blue circle of white stars in the center, a format that allows for the work to be displayed in a vertical or horizontal alignment. Indiana produced subsequent versions of the banner in felt, all retaining the original design, but departing from the American flag-based color scheme. In a letter to the German gallerist Alfred Schmela dated May 21, 1966, Indiana explained that the version in black, red, and yellow, the colors of the German flag, became his “German-American flag,” and a red, blue, and green version, based on the colors of his original LOVE painting, his “Vietnam-American flag.”
Indiana was not, however, simply experimenting with the formal qualities of the American flag; his New Glory Banner series has a distinct political message. This is seen both in the pentagonal alignment of the stars, an allusion to the Pentagon, and the inclusion of an extra star, a commentary on America’s empire building. The particular meaning attributed to the 51st star has, however, varied. In a May 4, 1992, interview with Susan Elizabeth Ryan Indiana explained that the additional star in his “Vietnam-American flag,” a work intended as an oblique protest to the Vietnam War, infers that the United States was possibly making Vietnam the 51st state, while a December 13, 1962, article in The Des Moines Register discussing a red, black, and white version at Grinnell College notes that the 51st star represents the Pentagon building.
In his painting New Glory Banner Indiana returns to the original red, white, and blue color scheme, but employs a design that departs slightly from that of the felt banners, with a smaller circle of stars now placed in upper half of the flag. The stars still number 51, emphasizing the continuation of American imperialism. Social criticism and political commentary form a thread throughout much of Indiana’s work, and in New Glory Banner the artist revisits an earlier design to make a currently relevant political statement. This is also illustrated by his 2001 painting Afghanistan, which closely follows the format of his 1965–66 Confederacy series.