Johanna Herr


Above the Fruited Plain (America! America!)




United States




Variable installation composed of carpet, publication, wall paper and vinyl

Dictator Wallpaper: variable dimensions, printed vinyl wallpaper

War Rug X (Banana Republics): 36 in x 6 ft x 1 in, acrylic and wool tufted rug

Banana Republican Recipe Book: 5 x 7 in, 65-page perfect bound book (open edition)

The Chemical Composition of a Coup: 22 x 30 in, archival inkjet on paper.

Credits: Courtesy of Johanna Herr and Cara Marsh Sheffler

Johanna Herr’s work is devoted to the research of U.S. neocolonial interventions in countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America during the 20th century.  Above the Fruited Plain (America! America!) is an installation composed of several pieces exploring the United Fruit Company’s policies in Central America. The work was created for Herr’s exhibition at Geary Contemporary for NADA House. Using the defunct domestic interiors of the Colonel’s Row houses on Governor’s Island as an exhibition space, the installation draws attention to the violence that haunts our domestic bliss, whether we are aware of it or not.

The installation consists of 4 elements: a rug, wallpaper, work on paper, and a recipe book. The machine-woven rug, War Rug X (Banana Republics/US Intervention in Latin America), is part of the War Rugs from America series, which uses the material and visual narrative strategies of Afghan war rugs to question state violence in America. War Rug X applies this rhetoric to the history of the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International) and the creation of banana republics in Central America. 

The maximalist wallpaper uses graphic patterns from the 1960s to subvert images of 32 violent right-wing dictators in Central America and the Caribbean, whose repressive regimes were supported by the U.S. government (between 1899 and 1990). 

The work on paper The Chemical Composition of a Coup subverts a diagram from a 1950s Chiquita Banana recipe book—detailing the chemical composition of a fully ripe banana—to examine the involvement of the US government in the 1954 Guatemalan coup that overthrew the Arbenz government (one of more than 15 military coups in Latin America in which the CIA played a key role). 

Finally, the exhibition presents Banana Republican Recipe Book, created with writer Cara Marsh Sheffler. The book subverts the aesthetic of a 1970s Chiquita banana recipe book to detail the violent history of U.S. intervention and exploitation in Central America. The original recipe books were published by United Fruit between the 1940s and 1970s—with American housewives as their target audience —and were full of racism, cultural imperialism, and corporate insensitivity. The Banana Republican Recipe Book mimics the visual and linguistic tone of those books to reveal their underlying violence.