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Robert Indiana

American Painter and Sculptor

Robert Indiana Photo
Movements and Styles: Pop Art, Minimalism, Hard-edge Painting

Born: Born: September 13, 1928 - New Castle, Indiana

Died: May 19, 2018 - Vinalhaven Island, Maine

"I have always thought of my work as being celebratory. Let's say it's the three C's - commemorative, celebratory, and colorful."

Robert Indiana Signature

Summary of Robert Indiana

Best known for his iconic LOVE series, which has been reproduced in formats ranging from large public sculptures to postage stamps, Robert Indiana explores the American experience using everyday objects and language. With his hard-edge painting, bold colors, and popular imagery, he is often associated with Pop art, but Indiana rejects this label; indeed, beyond the visual lightheartedness are levels of personal and political meaning which are often dark or critical. His work integrates non-art materials, ordinary language, and commercially-inspired graphic designs with more traditional elements of fine art, elevating the viewer's daily experience and folding it into a history of art and American identity.

Key Ideas

An admirer of early-20th-century American modernism, Indiana reflected on the questions of national identity posed by artists such as Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, and Edward Hopper; in particular, he builds upon their use of the familiar, the ordinary, or the industrial, to transform popular sources into fine art. The American dream is often cast as an elusive and somewhat tragic quest, filled with eye-catching slogans and advertising graphics.
Common language appears throughout Indiana's work, which is often layered with coded meanings, coming from Indiana's biography or classical and literary sources. These texts closely resemble advertisements; yet while they act like ads or billboards, they often subtly critique popular culture and consumerism.
Deceptively simple, Indiana's ordinary images and commercial style appear similar to Pop art, yet his work is layered with references from art history and a deeply personal iconography that complicates their generic execution. Overtly political and socially engaged, Indiana interrogated consumerism and mass culture, explicitly criticizing ideals treated more ambiguously by most Pop artists.
Robert Indiana Photo

Robert Indiana was adopted as an infant by Earl Clark and Carmen Watters Clark and named Robert Earl Clark. He grew up in a financially unstable environment, as his father held a wide range of jobs, from an oil executive to pumping gas. When Indiana was nine, his parents divorced and his mother went to work; her time as a diner waitress would be influential to Indiana's artistic career. A free spirit, his mother frequently moved; by age seventeen, Indiana had lived in twenty-one different locations.

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