THE SWEET MYSTERY, 1959-1960

Oil on canvas
72 x 60 in.
(182.9 x 152.4 cm.)

The Sweet Mystery came from these things:

1. My first I Ching reading: this occurred early on Coenties Slip with Ellsworth Kelly and his newly arrived friend from the Paris days, the Kentuckian Jacky Youngerman, in his first loft on the waterfront which, curiously, was the site of a Chinese laundry at the time of my birth.

2. Yin and Yang: a wish to invest them with a new form

3. The gingko leaf: the new form though of prehistoric Oriental botanic origin, not of a tree, but a fern, which – in the not humid enough climate of New York – unable to have normal prehistoric sex, the female specimen throws off a foul-smelling seed as if in anguished protest (sour/sweet Mystery with Chatham Square and Chinatown the next El stop away from Hanover Square when the Slip was transversed by the famous snake-curve of the recently vanished Third Avenue Elevated downtown.).

4. One year of painting: various mutations of the double ginkgo leaf shape – my Yin and Yang – but very Westernly and dangerously in oil on paper, a medium claiming no permanency…perhaps thinking of my self as a tree casting off leaves at autumn.

5. The cycle: from Spring’s Permanent Green Light to Falls’ golden leaves on the black-blue asphalt of Jeanette Park, even up to my own stoop next to the Rincón de España downstairs where a handsome dark-eyed barmaid named Carmen – like my “Mother” worked those eight years I lived above and sent Spanish music welling up the hoist shaft – but never the “Habañera.”

6. Yellow: my color, particularly in its darkened aspects, the browns and earths (my “Father”’s last property in Indiana was on Greasy Creek in Brown County).

7. “Vision binoculaire”: a phrase from Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave, a book I was reading at the time with a friend who, ironically, was destined to commit suicide later while living at 3-5, since the book is fixed on the character of Palinurus.

8. The Sweet Mystery: life and death. The hereness and nonhereness.

9. The words: among my first cautious uses of them on canvas, here muted and restrained.

10. THE SWEET MYSTERY: song breaking through the darkness.”

— Robert Indiana

 

First published in Robert Indiana (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Marion Koogler Mc Nay Art Institute, San Antonio, and the Herron Museum of Art, Indianapolis, 1968)

Medium

Decade

View

Clear Filters
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
TECH

TECH

1945
500

500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
MENE MENE TEKEL

MENE MENE TEKEL

1955-56/1989
GINKGO

GINKGO

1957/1959
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959-1960
RA

RA

1960
ZIG

ZIG

1960
SOUL

SOUL

1960
OWL

OWL

1960
ORB

ORB

1960
MOON

MOON

1960
M

M

1960
HOLE

HOLE

1960
GE

GE

1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960 - 1961
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960-1961
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960-1962
MATE

MATE

1960-1962
TWO

TWO

1960-1962
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960-1962
BAR

BAR

1960-1962
LAW

LAW

1960-1962
STAR

STAR

1960-1962
CUBA

CUBA

1960-1962
MELVILLE

MELVILLE

1961
BALLYHOO

BALLYHOO

1961
HARDROCK

HARDROCK

1961
WOMB

WOMB

1961
SLIP

SLIP

1961
GEM

GEM

1961/1984
DOWN

DOWN

1962
UP

UP

1962
GRASS

GRASS

1962
FOR

FOR

1962
EAT/DIE

EAT/DIE

1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
FOUR

FOUR

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
AHAB

AHAB

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
X-5

X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963-1964
COLUMN HUG

COLUMN HUG

1963-1964
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963-1964
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963/1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
ONE

ONE

1965
TWO

TWO

1965
THREE

THREE

1965
FOUR

FOUR

1965
FIVE

FIVE

1965
SIX

SIX

1965
SEVEN

SEVEN

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966-1999
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966/2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
APOGEE

APOGEE

1970
ART

ART

1972-2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
EVE

EVE

1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998-2006
COMET

COMET

2000