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Robert Indiana (American, 1928-2018)
Also known as: Clark, RobertBirth Place: New Castle (Henry county, Indiana, United States)
Robert Indiana Known best for his iconic LOVE series, Robert Indiana has become one of the leading Pop artists of his generation. Born Robert Clark in 1928 in New Castle, Indiana, he was adopted as an infant and spent his childhood moving throughout Indiana, which he took as his surname in 1958. He began his artistic training at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, and then he studied at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York. Indiana won a travel fellowship upon graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1953, which he used to study abroad at the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Two years after moving to New York, he met fellow artist Ellsworth Kelly, with whom he joined a community of artists in Coenties Slip, including Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, and Jack Youngerman. Indiana’s work was strongly influenced and molded by the environment in Coenties Slip, where he not only gained subject matter, but also materials for his work, using the dregs of the shipping trade to create sculptural assemblages. He developed his unique painterly vocabulary when he discovered 19th century brass stencils and consequently began combining brightly colored numbers with stimulating short words onto sculptures and various media.
Declaring himself as an “American painter of signs,” his work was quickly recognized and featured in many important exhibitions, with the Museum of Modern Art even acquiring Indiana’s painting The American Dream, I, in 1961. He distinguished himself from fellow Pop artists with respect to addressing the political and social issues of the time, including historical and American literary references in his paintings, which in turn sparked questions of identity and the power of language in art. Indiana also collaborated with other artists, such as appearing in Andy Warhol’s film Eat, where he silently ate a mushroom in his Coenties Slip studio.
The central theme of the word “love” first appeared in his painting Four Star Love (1961). Then, after experimenting with a series of rubbings in which he created compositions of stacked letters, the design evolved into canvas paintings of hard-edged color variants. The universality of the subject resonated and continues to resonate with audiences, in and out of the art world. Indiana has been a part of several unique projects, including stage sets and even the design for a basketball court in a Milwaukee convention center. His work is featured all over the world, being held in institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Shanghai Art Museum. Indiana remains a large influence in the contemporary art world today.
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