Artist Robert Indiana said: “I haven’t done a painting without a message.”
Indiana has experimented with simple words, signs, and numbers to create his paintings and sculptures. What messages can you find in his work? Check out the Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE exhibition, on view through January 5, 2014.
This is Indiana’s best-known painting. He made it in the 1960s when the hippie movement was just beginning to take off, and people saw this work as a symbol of the counterculture. Since its creation, LOVE has appeared on many products including postage stamps, doormats, mugs, and even automobile license plates. Have you seen it before? Where?
His first-grade teacher who got him interested in art.
Words, highway signs, symbols, and numbers.
Artists, poets, and writers such as Charles Demuth, William Carlos Williams, and Herman Melville.
Phrases and sentences from books and poetry.
All things American. He even changed his last name from Clark to an American state, Indiana.
And there’s so much more to Indiana’s art than his painting, LOVE.
TAKE A SNEAKPEEK. . .
This painting is called The Sweet Mystery. Need some clues to solve it? Here, Indiana included four ginkgo leaf shapes joined at the stem and arranged like a mirror image. Below the leaves, he used stencils to spell out the title of the painting. The red and black stripes at the top and bottom of the painting are like danger strips that you might see at railroad tracks or a construction site.
This is what a real ginkgo leaf looks like. Compare it with the leaves in the painting. Notice how Indiana has simplified the shapes of the leaves and made his own composition with them.
In the 1960s, Indiana lived in lower Manhattan where buildings were being torn down to expand Wall Street. He found all kinds of materials that he used in his sculpture, including wooden beams, pieces of metal, and bicycle wheels. He called these sculptures Herms, because they reminded him of statues of the god Hermes that can be found at roadsides in Greece and Italy.
In the 1970s, Indiana made a series of self-portraits, but instead of painting himself in a realistic way, he used words, stars, geometric shapes, and numbers that represent each year of his life in the 1960s. He also included the places he visited, lived, or worked. This painting represents Indiana’s life in 1961. See how he has layered and overlapped the colors and shapes to create this composition.
Make a collection of works by artists who use words in different ways. Here are some suggestions of artists to look at: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stuart Davis, Jasper Johns, Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Kerry James Marshall, Suzanne McClelland, Jack Pierson, Lorna Simpson, Lawrence Weiner, and Christopher Wool. What did you discover?