Born in New Castle of Indiana State in 1928, served in US Air Force in early life for 3 years, studied Painting and Sculpture in the US and Scotland, being a leading figure of American art world from 1960s, pronounced himself “American Painter of sign” - he is painter, sculptor and printmaker Robert Indiana . A major retrospective devoted to Robert’s work, was being presented in Whitney Museum of American Art at Madison Street, New York, ended on January 5, 2014. The exhibition, organized by Whitney curator Barbara Haskell, was started on September 24, 2013. It was on view in the Whitney's fourth floor Emily Fisher Landau Galleries, titled “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE”.
The retrospective rediscovered Indiana‘s works from 1955, the beginning of his accomplishment through 2001 when he made his ninth piece of American Dream series. Robert Indiana is the forerunner in developing hard-edge painting, assemblage art and Pop art.
Robert was inclined with art and poetry from his younger life. But due to great economic depression his family was in very awkward condition that time. He has to change his home 21 times at the age of 17. After passing matriculation he joined US Air Force and served there for 3 years. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Skowhegan School of Painting from 1949 to 53. He attained a scholarship from Edinburgh University of Scotland and studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1953 to 54.
Indiana returned America on 1954 and started living in the New York City. In this time he created geometric abstract painting and vertical wood sculpture. He created these wooden sculptures following the anthropomorphic stones of ancient Greece, and called them “herms”.
In the mid 20th century, abstract expressionism was most influential and it was the general trend of American artists. But Indiana joined in the Pop art movement, which opposed non-representational abstract expressionism. Pop artists emerged with realistic approach and they focused on popular and consumer culture and commodity. Their themes derived from popular comic books, roadside advertisements, colorful cans of Campbell’s soup etc. Robert Indiana became a leading figure of this movement along with Andy Warhol. Indiana made many paintings and sculptures of Pop art with short words and numbers such as EAT/DIE , ERR, HUG LOVE etc. during 1960s.
LOVE became a iconic creation of Indiana , first designed in 1964, for a Christmas card of The Museum of Modern Art. In 1973 United States postal service used this image in postage stamp on the occasion of Valentine ’s Day. It was priced 8-cent, sold 300 million copies and marked as the best selling stamp in world history. This “LOVE” letters’ sculptural version is so popular that it debuted in major cities of world - such as Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Vancouver, Lisbon, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Singapore etc.
Indiana expressed his political thought in his art-work. In his Confederacy series, he was vocal against racial injustice and violence; shouted for justice and civil rights of workers and African Americans through his painting.
He also created series of painting with literary texts taken from American renowned authors, namely Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Herman Melville.
He paid homage to predecessors through his art-work. He made some paintings after great works of three great artists of 20th century - Joseph Stella, Marsden, Hartley and Charles Demuth .
Though Indiana was one of the central figures of Pop art, regarding intimacy ,personality and style, he was exceptional and extra-ordinary. He was more perfectionist, more sincere, and not crazy for fame. His bright and brilliant color, shape and symbol of his works come out from the episode of his personal life .
John Wilmerding, renowned art historian, defined Indiana’s contribution as: “His art is very much an expression of the American folk tradition – of its crudeness and practicality”.
Robert Clark renamed himself as Robert Indiana in 1958; few people know him in his previous name. In 1970, he had replaced his home from New York City to Vinalhaven , a remote lonely island of the coast of Maine , to live and work lonely. But his contribution in American art makes difficult to forget him at all.