Biography"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 billboard-like 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.
Curriculum Vitae 2013
Pop Art Accrochage, Fluegel-Roncak Gallery, Nuremberg, Germany All You Need IS LOVE - Mori Art Museum, Tokyo The Pop Object: The Still Life Tradition in Pop Art - Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York City, NY Now Here is also Nowhere: Part II - Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA Bal Harbour - Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, FL
Hope - Contini Galleria d´Arte, Venice Robert Indiana: Sculptures - Waddington Custot Galleries, London (England) Robert Indiana: New & Classic Works - Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, FL
Robert Indiana: Rare Works from 1959 on Coenties Slip - Galerie Gmurzynska - Zürich, Zurich
Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
Robert Indiana and the Star of Hope - Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME (solo) Sculpture: Post-War to Present - Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York City, NY Von Picasso bis Warhol, Künstlerschmuck der Avantgarde - Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Cologne
Pressing Issues, Des Moines Art center, Des Moines, IA Pop and Op, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY
Art Market Now, The Columns, Seoul, South Korea
Life as a Legend - Marilyn Monroe, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
Made in USA – ausgewählte Graphik, Galerie & Edition Bode GmbH, Nuremberg, Germany Summer of Love Art of the Psychedelic Era, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK Do it yourself - Positionen von den sechziger Jahren bis Heute, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany 40 Jahre Galerie Thomas, Galerie Thomas, Munich, Germany
Robert Indiana 66: Paintings and Sculpture, Price Tower Arts Center's, Bartlesville, OK
Letters, Words and Numbers, L & M Gallery, New York, NY
Retrospective, Musée D'Art Moderne Contemporain, Nice, France
Prints Retrospective, Susan Sheehan Gallery, New York, NY
Prints as Process, Baxter Gallery, Portland School of Art, MA
Vinalhaven Press 1985-1986, Portland Museum of Art, MA
Indiana's Indianas: A 25 Year Retrospective of Paintings and Sculptures from the Collection of Robert Indiana, National Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washingtonm, DC
Art about Art, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum retrospective travels to University Art Museum at University of Texas, Austin, TX; the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia, VA; the Indianapoilis Museum of Art, Indiana, IN; the Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase, NY; the Art Center, South Bend, Indiana, IN
Thirty Years of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, curated by Gene Baro, Brooklyn, NY
Galerie Denise Rene, New York, NY (solo) American Art Since 1945, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
The Modern Image, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA Galerie Denise Rene, New York, NY (solo)
The Prints and Posters of Robert Indiana, New England tour originates at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Travels to Colby College of Art Museum, Waterville, ME; the Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH; the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME; and Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
70 Years of American Art, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY
First one-man museum exhibition travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonia, TX and the Herron Museum of Art, Toledo, OH Word and Image, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Ninth Sao Paulo Bienal, Brazil
LOVE Exhibition at Stable Gallery, New York, NY 1966 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY Galerie Alfred Schmela, Dusseldorf, Germany Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany
Word and Image, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY 1965 Annual Exhibition of American Paintings, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY
Stable Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Americans 1963, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Exhibits with Richard Stankeiwicz at the Walker Art Center, Mineapolis, MI (The show travels to The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA) New Realists, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY
Stable Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
The Art of Assemblage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY