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 Robert E. (Clark) Indiana  (1928 - )

/ in-dee-AN-uh/
About: Robert E. (Clark) Indiana
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine/Indiana      Known for: hard-edged signs-calligraphy, pop objects, sculpture

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BIOGRAPHY for Robert Indiana
Facts/Data
Birth
1928 (New Castle, Indiana)
 
Lived/Active
New York/Maine/Indiana


© 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Often Known For
hard-edged signs-calligraphy, pop objects, sculpture

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Modernism
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Robert Clark in New Castle Indiana, in 1928, Robert Indiana adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career. "There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS." This exercise in emphasis sums up Robert Indiana's position in the world of contemporary art.  He has taken the everyday symbols of roadside America and made them into brilliantly colored geometric Pop Art*.

In his work he has been an ironic commentator on the American scene.  Both his graphics and his paintings have made cultural statements on life and, during the rebellious 1960s, pointed political statements as well.

Indiana studied first at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis* and then at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York.  From there he went to the School of Art Institute of Chicago* where he received a degree in 1953 and won a travelling fellowship to Europe.  In 1954, he attended Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.

In his paintings and constructions he has given new meaning to such basic words as "EAT", "DIE" and "LOVE".  Using them in bold block letters in vivid colors, he has enticed his viewers to look at the commonplace from a new perspective.  One indication of his success was the appearance of his immensely popular multi-colored "LOVE" on a United States postage stamp in 1973.

HIs LOVE series, which opened at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1966, became one of the defining images of the Pop Art era of the 1960s, but for him, the meaning was deeper than just a comment on the commercial aspects of modern life. 

He had a difficult childhood because he was adopted by parents whose life was unstable, and his adopted mother, Carmen, died when he was age 20.  His preoccupation with LOVE became an exploration of complicated relationships and his spiritual nature.  Carmen was of German heritage, and in his LOVE depictions, he used the colors of West Germany, which were yellow letters on a red and black ground.

Sources:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
New Orleans Auction Galleries, Catalogue of November 22, 2003

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary: http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from Paul J. Rickey, Jr., Art Instructor, Linn-Benton Community College

Robert Clark (later Robert Indiana) attended Arsenal Technical High School on a 75 acre campus in Indianapolis, Indiana. The art teachers were professional artists.  Garo Antresean (also on your list of artists) attended Arsenal Technical High School and then as well as Clark (Indiana) attended
John Herron School of Art.

I followed both to John Herron Art School myself.

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:

The Quintessential Pop Artist, Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in 1928 in New Castle, Indiana.  Early in his career, the artist changed his last name to Indiana, paying homage to his birth state.  Despite a fondness for his home, Indiana has spent most of his life away from the state with which he shares a name.  He moved to New York in 1954 and quickly began working in the Pop Art style that was prevalent there at the time.

No artist has been more successful in fulfilling the ideology of Pop Art than Robert Indiana.  While other Pop artists reproduced symbols of popular culture, Robert Indiana created an icon with his “Love” artworks.  Executed in painting, sculpture and print form, the “Love” image is so ingratiated in American culture that its existence as a work of art is almost forgotten.  The stacked, block-lettered format has been used on Christmas cards, stamps, jewelry and coffee mugs.  In perhaps the greatest form of adulation, Indiana’s “Love” has been parodied in other pop culture mediums over the forty years since it’s creation.  Bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Oasis have used the “Love” format on their album covers.  In the 80s, The American Foundation for AIDS Research adopted the “Love” format in a painting designed to increase AIDS awareness.

In 1978, Robert Indiana relocated to Maine.  Since moving to New England, Indiana has maintained a special connection to the city of Lewiston.  The city has become a destination for art lovers due to the celebrated Lewiston Fine Arts Festival and also because of its most famous former resident, Marsden Hartley.  In the early 1990s, Indiana created a series of paintings he called “The Hartley Elegies” that were inspired by and created in homage to American modernist Marsden Hartley.  The composition of these works was inspired by Harley’s “German Officer” paintings from 1914-1915. 

A kinship between Indiana’s bold works saturated with primary colors and the works of Marsden Hartley is evident.  Indiana felt a personal connection to Hartley, as well.  Both men have been pivotal figures in American art and Indiana related to the social messages in Hartley’s work that address issues of discrimination.

In 1995, the Weisman Art Museum sponsored an exhibition of both Hartley’s canvases and Indiana’s “Hartley Elegies.”  The show traveled from the Weisman Museum in Minnesota to Chicago's Terra Museum of American Art and ended at the Florida International University Art Museum.  Indiana in Lewiston” was the printed work created from the painting “Kv. F VII” from “The Hartley Elegies.”  A print from the collection was donated to the Lewiston Public Library where it is currently displayed.

 

 

 


Biography from GallArt.com:
Robert Indiana, American (1928 - )

"There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS." This exercise in emphasis sums up Robert Indiana's position in the world of contemporary art. He has taken the everyday symbols of roadside America and made them into brilliantly colored geometric pop art. In his work he has been an ironic commentator on the American scene. Both his graphics and his paintings have made cultural statements on life and, during the rebellious 1960s, pointed political statements as well.

Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, in 1928, he adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career. During his typically Midwestern boyhood, highway signs had a symbolic importance for him. His father worked for Phillips 66 gas, and when he left his wife and son, he did so down Route #66. And the diner which his mother subsequently operated had the familiar "EAT" sign looming overhead.

Indiana studied first at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and then at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York. From there he went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he received a degree in 1953 and won a traveling fellowship to Europe. In 1954, he attended Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.

Back in America, Indiana settled in the historic Coentes Slip area on the New York waterfront in 1956 and showed his first hard-edged paintings the following year. From the start he worked with bold, contrasting, sometimes clashing, colors that mirror familiar signs along the highways.

A moralist at heart and an admirer of Longfellow, Whitman and Melville, Indiana often wryly prods his viewers. In a billboard4ike triptych dedicated to Melville, for example, he reminds them of Manhattan's past and suggests they walk around the island-city. He also feels a strong kinship with such earlier precisionist painters as Charles Demuth and showed his admiration in The Demuth American Dream No. 5 (1963, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). Although painted in Indiana's own idiom, it was clearly inspired by Demuth's well-known I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928, Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The American dream has been a recurring theme in Indiana's work, and he has used it to both celebrate and criticize the national way of life. In the midst of all the gaudy, star-spangled color of The American Dream #J (1961, Museum of Modern Art), for instance, he highlights the words "Take All" and "Tilt" as reminders both of Americans' materialism and of the tendency of some to cheat, as they do on pinball machines.

In his paintings and constructions he has given new meaning to such basic words as "Eat", "Die" and "Love" . Using them in bold block letters in vivid colors, he has enticed his viewers to look at the commonplace from a new perspective. One indication of his success was the appearance of his immensely popular multi-colored "Love" on a United States postage stamp in 1973.

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art:
Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark) was born in New Castle, Indiana on September 13, 1928.  He adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career.  In 1953, Indiana received a degree form the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1954, attended the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.

Indiana moved to New York in 1956, where he became associated with the Pop Art movement and began to paint in a geometric*, hardedge style, blending commercial art* and existentialism, which Indiana termed ‘sculptural poems’.  With his first New York solo exhibition at Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery in 1962, Indiana began a long career of showcasing his works in over 30 museums and galleries.  In 1964, he worked with artist Andy Warhol, creating Eat, a 45-minute film of Indiana eating a mushroom in his loft.

"There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS." This exercise in emphasis sums up Robert Indiana's position in the world of contemporary art.  Steeped in his Midwestern roots, he has taken the everyday symbols and verbiage of roadside America and made them into boldly colored art.  Indiana has been an ironic commentator on the American scene as his graphics and paintings have made cultural statements on life and, during the rebellious 1960s, pointed political statements as well.

Indiana is most well known for his iconic LOVE artworks.  Originally created in 1964 as a Christmas card design for the Museum of Modern Art, the artwork was reproduced on United States Postal Service postage stamp in 1973.  It sold more than 325 million units making it the most popular stamp ever issued, barring Christmas stamps. Indiana was paid $1000 by the US Postal Service.

In the tradition of LOVE, Indiana created HOPE and donated all proceeds from the sales of its reproduction on t-shirts, pins, posters, bumper stickers to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The artist has called HOPE “Love’s close relative."

Indiana has lived and worked in Vinalhaven, Maine since 1978.

QUOTE:
"Pop Art is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naïve!”

Select Museum Collections:
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Museum of Modern Art, NY
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Walker Art Center, MN
Tate Gallery, London


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.

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