When The Essential Robert Indiana show opened in the middle of February, I was more than ready to see his art. As Sky Blue Window's general manager, I had worked with our editor, Jami Stall, and a few freelancers to create a weeklong series of stories focused on his life and work. In fact, after finding, writing, editing and proofing that many pieces focused on one topic, I was a little bit over him. Or so I thought.
- William John Kennedy
- Robert Indiana standing before “The Demuth American Dream #5,” New York, 1963. Among its symbolism are the world's four elements according to Indiana: existence, love, survival and sin, represented as "DIE," "HUG," "EAT" and "ERR." © 2010 William John Kennedy, kiwiartsgroup.com
Yet, when I attended the member preview event for a day-after-Valentine's Day date, I was delighted and intrigued by Indiana's art. Anyone who grew up in Indianapolis going to the IMA, as I did, is more than aware of the iconic LOVE statue. But his screen prints, when displayed in their large-scale glory, are captivating. The tiny little "errors" created by the printing process imbue the prints with a handmade quality absent in many digital designs that are more common today. His bold use of color, of form, and of his own biography in the 1960s and 1970s autoportrait series fascinated me, for both their form and forthright content. And the adorable images of Robert Indiana with his cats in no way detracted from that experience.
What was most interesting to me, though, was that I came to the exhibit better prepared than I typically do. I usually end up doing all my research about the artists after I attend. After that week (or really, multiple weeks, as is the reality of producing and distributing content) of Robert Indiana, I was ready to see the nuance and appreciate the significance of the exhibit. I already knew about his designs for a basketball court and the Santa Fe Opera's production of a work cowritten by Gertrude Stein. I had learned about his peripatetic childhood, friendship with Andy Warhol, adoptive family and complicated relationship with central Indiana. So, I encourage you to explore our series of stories, as well as two previous blog posts about him, whether that reading is in reaction or in preparation to visiting The Essential Robert Indiana.
The Essential Robert Indiana at the Indianapolis Museum of Art closes Sunday, May 4. The museum hosts a "Last Call Closing Party" on Saturday, 8 p.m. to midnight with art-making, music, docent-led tours and more.