Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, the artist better known now as Robert Indiana spent much of his childhood moving frequently around his namesake state. His artistic talent was evident from an early age and was encouraged by his first grade teacher who suggested that he pursue his dream of going to art school.
In 1942, Indiana moved to Indianapolis to attend Arsenal Technical High School. He graduated in 1946 and immediately went on to serve three years in the Air Force. Indiana used the money he earned with his G.I. Bill to pay for college at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as some time at the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting in Maine, earning his B.F.A. in 1953. He also received a fellowship to study art at the Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland.
When Indiana returned to the U.S. in 1954, he settled in New York City and began working at an art supply store where he met Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly, as well as James Rosenquist, convinced Indiana to move to Coenties Slip in southeast Manhattan where a burgeoning artists’ community was developing. There, Indiana was introduced to hard-edge painting and began to scavenge the neighborhood’s abandoned warehouses for materials to create his sculptural assemblages such as Jeanne D’Arc (1960) and Wall of China (1960). It was also during this time that he acquired his “nom de brush” and changed his name from Robert Clark to Robert Indiana in order to acknowledge his Midwestern roots.
In 1961, Indiana began a series of paintings that integrated bold, symmetrical graphic design such as stenciled text and numbers. The series was both informed by and critical of American advertising and consumerism. In 1966, he introduced the first iteration of perhaps his most famous work, the popular Love series, first produced as a painting and later issued in other media such as sculpture and even a stamp.
As Indiana garnered fame as a leading figure of the art world, particularly within the Pop Art movement, he sought to distinguish himself from fellow Pop Artists. He did so by including social and political commentary in his works as well as literary and autobiographical references. Inspired by the likes of Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth and Edward Hopper, Robert Indiana similarly employed familiar or industrial images in his works in order to transform the ordinary into art.
Robert Indiana’s work can be found in museums worldwide. Just a few of those collections include the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Brooklyn Museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum, the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Menil Collection, MoMA New York, National Gallery of Art, Berlin, and Tate Modern, London.
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