As our State prepares to celebrate our bicentennial in 2016, here at the State Museum we're already in planning stages for a wide variety of exhibitions and programs. As the Fine Art Curator, it will be my task to create an exhibition that will highlight important works of art, artistic trends and individual artists that have had a significant impact on the cultural development of the State, and the world.
To my last point, there is one Hoosier artist that is currently getting a great deal of national and international attention, and will feature prominently in my exhibition plans for 2016. Native born, Robert (Clark) Indiana, is best known as a founding member of the 1960's Pop Art movement and is arguably the most recognizable artist to come out of the state. On September 26th of this year, Robert Indiana: Beyond Love, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has garnered rave reviews and will undoubtedly give the 85 year old artist the recognition he deserves, and indirectly, re-familiarize the world with his origins in Indiana. To our credit, the State Museum loaned a painting from our permanent collection titled, Terre Haute (1960), for the exhibition.
When most people think of Robert Indiana, the enduring image of LOVE comes to mind. While it certainly contributed to his fame, the artist has expressed mixed emotions on the subject. From my perspective, one of the unfortunate consequences associated with the piece is that it's overshadowed many of his significant accomplishments —there was life before and after LOVE. As the title of the Whitney exhibit (Beyond Love) would suggest, the artist didn't just magically appear one day, but rather, was an important and influential figure in the development of post-WWII art.
As one would expect, Robert Indiana will certainly have a place in our bicentennial exhibition, but it won't be because he created LOVE. Rather, like T.C. Steele, George Rickey, Vija Celmins, Felrath Hines, Harry Davis and many others notable Indiana artists, he has a history with us. He was born in New Castle and experienced much while growing up here. He attended Tech High School and took classes at Herron. As he built his career and reputation as one of the most innovative artists of his day, it was not uncommon to see his creations peppered with imagery associated with his time in Indiana. His work tackles cultural and political issues of the day, and like his fellow artists from the 1960s (Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin and others), he created a recognizable signature style of work that remains relevant today.
In assembling the bicentennial exhibition, being famous and prolific isn't going to be enough. There are two hundred years of our cultural history that include both historical and contemporary figures; some well known, others yet to be discovered - or rediscovered. The world has changed since T.C. Steele painted the hills of Brown County over one hundred years ago, the art included in this exhibition will reflect those changes. Robert Indiana is both famous and one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, but he is only one of many fascinating stories associated with the cultural identity of Indiana.
For this exhibition to be successful, I'll have to use both my eyes and brain.