September 13. Robert Earl Clark is born in New Castle, Indiana. He is taken to Richmond, Indiana, to live with caretakers until his adoption by Earl Clark and Carmen Watters Clark. The Clarks reside in Indianapolis, where Earl works as a clerk for the Western Oil Refining Company. The marriage is the second for both Earl and Carmen, and the couple’s decision to adopt is informed by Carmen’s loss of a son to whooping cough during her first marriage.
Shell Oil purchases Western Oil. A few years later, Earl loses his job, and the family loses their home and is forced to move to a dilapidated farmhouse in the country. Earl finds work with a number of oil companies during the next few years, even pumping gas for a time. As a result of the family’s misfortunes and Carmen’s restlessness, the Clark family lives in twenty-one different homes by the time Robert is seventeen years old.
Earl Clark secures an administrative job at Phillips Petroleum Company, where he works for the next twelve years. The family moves back to Indianapolis, but they never recover financially.
Robert travels with his parents to the Chicago World’s Fair, and in subsequent summers to Alabama to visit paternal relatives (1935) and to Fort Worth, Texas, to see the Frontier Centennial Exposition (1936), trips that contributed to his memories of a childhood spent traveling U.S. highways.
Underweight and nearsighted, Robert is deemed too ill to enter first grade, which his parents attribute to pollution from the International Harvester factory across the street from their house. The family moves to a farm outside Mooresville, twenty miles southwest of Indianapolis.
Begins first grade with teacher Ruth Coffman, who recognizes and encourages his artistic talent. Halfway through the school year, the family moves into his grandparents’ home on Lockerbie Street in Mooresville.
The Clark family moves back to Indianapolis, but relocates three times during the school year, disrupting Robert’s education. The first issue of Life magazine is published, and Earl brings a copy home. Indiana later recalls collecting every issue of the magazine until his mother eventually threw them out years later. The magazine put him in touch with the broader world, introducing him to many contemporary artists including Pablo Picasso and the Americans Reginald Marsh and Marsden Hartley.
The Clark family moves to Cumberland, a rural town east of Indianapolis, where Robert attends third through sixth grade.
Robert’s maternal uncle Oliver Watters leaves his wife Ruby and kidnaps their two children. When her mother-in-law refuses to disclose the whereabouts of the children, Ruby shoots her. Carmen travels to Chicago to testify at Ruby’s trial on her behalf. The trial ends in an acquittal by reason of temporary insanity. While Carmen is away, Robert lives with his paternal aunt and uncle on their farm in Martinsville, Indiana.
Earl remains in Cumberland where he becomes involved with Sylvia McMannus. Earl and Carmen divorce soon after. Robert continues to live with his mother, who supports herself by working in small restaurants and roadside cafés.
Carmen marries Foster Dickey, the manager of the officers’ club at the Fort Benjamin Harrison Army base in Lawrence, Indiana. Earl Clark marries Sylvia McMannus, and they move to Indianapolis. Robert lives with his mother during the week and spends weekends with his father.
Robert enters Lawrence Junior High, attending the school for two years. The school offers no art classes.
In order to attend Arsenal Technical High School, which is known for its strong art department, Robert agrees to live with his father and stepmother in Indianapolis. To contribute to the family income, he works after-school jobs, first delivering poultry and then as a messenger for Western Union. In his junior year, he takes a job as a runner in the advertising department of the Indianapolis Star. It is during his high school years that he begins to keep a daily journal, a habit he will continue as an adult.
Studies with Sara Bard, an exhibiting watercolorist from Philadelphia, during his last two years at Arsenal Tech. Attends summer school to partially fulfill his science requirements in order to spend more time in Bard’s class during the school year.
Carmen’s husband loses his job, and they move to a small bungalow in Indianapolis. Robert leaves his father’s home and moves in with them; Earl and Sylvia move to Los Angeles.
Awarded a scholarship to attend figure-drawing classes on Saturdays at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis. His drawings from this time reflect the influence of Reginald Marsh, Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, and Charles Demuth.
Works on the staff of The Arsenal Cannon, the school newspaper. Provides occasional illustrations and poems such as “Jim Riley’s Dead” and “October.”
Graduates from Arsenal Tech as valedictorian, photographer and photo editor of the class yearbook, captain of the honor society (the Tech Legion), staff member of the school newspaper, and recipient of medals in Latin and English. He presents the Latin department with a gift of five illustrations on parchment, modeled after medieval illuminations, of the second chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke from the King James Bible.
Receives a Scholastic Art and Writing Award to attend the John Herron Art Institute but chooses instead to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps (which would become the U.S. Air Force the following year), intending to take advantage of the GI Bill on completing his service.
Attends a six-week basic training course at Lackland Air Corps Base, San Antonio, Texas, followed by a ten-week technical training course in typing at Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado.
Stationed in New Mexico at Hobbs Army Air Field, an aircraft storage facility since 1945. Indiana teaches typing and starts a mimeographed newspaper for the base.
Following the closure of the Hobbs airfield, Indiana is assigned to the Public Information Office at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. Enrolls in an evening course in Russian at the Utica branch of Syracuse University and attends art classes taught by Oscar Weissbuch at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica. Visits New York City for the first time.
Volunteers for assignment to Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, the only post available outside the contiguous forty-eight states. En route to his new posting he stops in Los Angeles to see his father. At Fort Richardson Indiana works in the central command office and serves as editor of the Sourdough Sentinel, the base’s newspaper.
Receives an emergency leave to visit his mother in Columbus, Indiana. He arrives at the hospital minutes before Carmen dies on June 17. Robert recounts that the last words she said to him were, “Boy have you had anything to eat?” He completes his last weeks of service at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. On August 15, his stepfather, Foster Dickey, dies.
Discharged from the Air Force, Robert enters the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the GI Bill. He majors in painting and printmaking; 27 unique and editioned graphics survive from his years at the Art Institute. During his four years at the school, he supplements his stipend from the GI Bill with various jobs: working nights taking inventory at Ryerson Steel, work at the Marshall Field & Company department store, and a part-time position at the Ryerson Library at the Art Institute. He spends one summer illustrating the classified section of the phone book published by the R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company.
He sees many memorable exhibitions during these years, including retrospectives of Edvard Munch (in 1951), Jean Dubuffet (in 1952), and Fernand Léger (in 1953). Dubuffet makes the strongest impression on his own work. During this time, he also hears a recording of Virgil Thomson’s opera Four Saints in Three Acts, for which Gertrude Stein wrote the words. This, his first encounter with the opera, deepens his already strong interest in Stein’s writings, which will prove to be of great significance in his later career.
Organizes the annual Art Students Costume Ball at Cyrus McCormick's former mansion on Chicago's North Side, which is deserted and slated for demolition. McCormick was the inventor of the mechanical reaper and founder of the International Harvester Company. Elected president of the Zeta chapter of Delta Phi Delta, an honorary art society.
Exhibits figurative paintings in a three-person exhibition with Claes Oldenburg and George Yelich at Club St. Elmo, a restaurant on North State Street in Chicago’s Near North neighborhood.
Wins a scholarship to attend summer classes at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, and receives one of seven Foreign Travelling Fellowships from the Art Institute of Chicago, which comes with a cash prize of $1,250.
Studies traditional fresco painting with Henry Varnum Poor during the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture summer session. He completes two murals: Pilate Washing His Hands and a memorial to the soldiers who died in the Korean War. He receives the school’s Fresco Prize for the latter; both are later destroyed.
Sails on the SS United States for Great Britain in September. On board he meets David Phillips, a young British poet, painter and, later, art historian, who shows him around London on their arrival. Finding no openings available at the University of London, he enrolls in the University of Edinburgh, where he studies botany, social philosophy, and English literature. He joins the university’s poetry society, contributes to Windfall, its poetry journal, and designs the cover. He takes evening classes at the Edinburgh College of Art, where he works in the print studio on lithographs and hand-setting his poetry.
Spends December in Paris, with side trips to the cathedrals of northern France and Belgium, accompanied by three American art historians, Bates Lowry, Richard Carrot, and Eugene Becker, all postgraduates from the University of Chicago.
Departs Edinburgh in May for a month in Europe, travelling by train through the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, en route to Italy. His tour of Italy includes stops in Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo, Florence, Rome, and Positano.
Receives, in absentia, his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In order to continue taking advantage of the GI Bill, he enrolls in a month-long, nonacademic seminar on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British art, music, and literature at the University of London. Paints several portraits of his friends, including two of the poet David Phillips.
When the funding from the GI Bill ends and his fellowship runs out, he borrows money from the U.S. Embassy in London to return home. He sails in steerage to New York aboard a ship of the Italia line.
Arrives in New York in early October without funds to continue to Chicago. Through Nicholas de Sailly, a dance student who modeled at the Art Institute of Chicago, he finds a room for $7 a week in the Floral Studios, a residency hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. He finds a part-time job selling art supplies at E. H. & A. C. Friedrichs Company for $20 a week and works there for the next three years. Among the artists who shop at the store are James Rosenquist and Charles Hinman, then studying at the Art Students League across the street.
Continues writing poetry and works periodically with John Hoppe’s Mobilux kinetic-light “spectaculars,” which are broadcast on NBC-TV.
Sublets the 63rd Street loft of the dancer Paul Sanasardo, who is away on tour for the summer. Inspired by Dubuffet, Clark begins work on a series of expressionistic portraits of friends, including Sanasardo and de Sailly.
In September, rents a studio at 61 Fourth Avenue in Greenwich Village, the center of Abstract Expressionism.
Sees a performance of The Mother of Us All, the opera composed by Virgil Thomson in 1947, with a libretto by Gertrude Stein, at the Phoenix Theater in New York. Conducted by Thomson and produced by Lincoln Kirstein, the opera celebrates the suffragist Susan B. Anthony.
Meets Ellsworth Kelly. In June, on Kelly’s recommendation, moves into a cold-water loft on the top floor of 31 Coenties Slip. Located on the East River south of Wall Street, the space previously belonged to Fred Mitchell, a friend of Kelly’s from Paris, who was leaving New York for a teaching job at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Soon after, Kelly moves into a loft at 3–5 Coenties Slip, just around the corner from his original loft at 109 Broad Street.
Cy Twombly rents space in Clark's Coenties Slip loft to complete a series of larger canvases for his upcoming show at the Stable Gallery in January 1957. When finished, he leaves four canvases behind, covering their still-wet surfaces with newspaper. Clark, who cannot afford canvas of his own at this time, uses two of the four as the supports for his own abstract, collaged paintings
That December, Jack Youngerman, his wife, the French actress Delphine Seyrig, and their young son Duncan, arrive in New York from Paris and move to 27 Coenties Slip on Kelly’s recommendation. Over the next several years, the large lofts and cheap rents in the area attract many artists, including Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, William S. and Ann Wilson, James Rosenquist, Charles Hinman, Chryssa, Alvin Dickstein, Steven and Barbara Durkee, and Édgar Negret.
Facing the imminent demolition of his building, Clark moves from 31 to 25 Coenties Slip, next to Youngerman and Seyrig; he will remain there for the next eight years.
Opens the Coenties Slip Workshop, an art school offering life-drawing classes, with Jack Youngerman. The school operates until October when it closes due to the lack of paying students, a problem exacerbated by the inaccessibility of the neighborhood and the difficulties of heating the space adequately.
Begins a series of paintings on paper of a mirrored, or doubled, ginkgo leaf design in a hard-edge style inspired by Kelly; due to the paper’s impermanency, few survive.
Leaves his position at the Friedrichs art supply store and takes a part-time secretarial job at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, typing the correspondence of the dean, the Rev. James A. Pike, and proofreading The History of the Cross by Norman Laliberté and the Reverend Canon Dr. Edward N. West. Clark would later credit Pike’s writings, specifically a book on love—and its spiritual dimension, agape—with inspiring his interest in the theme.
Begins work on the drawing Stavrosis (Crucifixion), a nineteen-foot-long mural pieced together from forty-four sheets of paper. The work reflects the influence of his job at the cathedral and is the fullest realization of his recent series of ginkgo paintings.
After completing work on the monumental drawing Stavrosis, he changes his name to Robert Indiana. Knowing of several other artists named Clark exhibiting in New York, he chooses a new name to stand out; with the examples of Leonardo da Vinci and Tennessee Williams as an inspiration, he selects the name of his home state.
Takes over Youngerman’s position teaching at the Scarsdale Studio Workshop, in Scarsdale, New York. He teaches three courses, a junior high materials workshop, an art history workshop, and an evening painting class for adults.
Meets John Kloss, a young fashion designer. In late 1959, Kloss moves in with Indiana at 25 Coenties Slip and, the following summer, begins his own fashion line.
Screen - Invert
Leaves his job at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine after one year.
Continues to explore the visual motifs he developed in Stavrosis. The double-ginkgo form and the avocado seed appear in the paintings Ginkgo, Source I, and Source II; the orbs, which he used to represent the twelve apostles, become abstract elements in works such as Sixth State and Twenty-First State (later retitled Twenty-One Golden Orbs).
Completes nearly a dozen large-scale paintings on plywood, scavenged in the neighborhood, and Homasote from the walls torn down in his own studio. After the ginkgo paintings, these abstract works comprise Indiana’s first sustained series.
Indiana, once again, teaches a materials workshop for junior high school students at the Scarsdale Studio Workshop. The class focuses on building assemblages, sculptures, and constructions from found objects. The class is an important factor in Indiana's decision to begin making sculptures of his own.
Starts his first assemblage, Sun and Moon (originally titled First Construction), out of rusted metal and discarded wood salvaged from Coenties Slip. In his December 7 journal entry he notes, “now many construction ideas come to mind, and as long as I haven’t money enough for canvas and stretchers, perhaps it is just as well.”
Indiana has recently started collecting old mortise-and-tenon beams from local buildings slated for demolition. Initially, he saws the beams in half in order to carry them up to his loft. Over the next few months, he notices that he is not the only one collecting the same materials; eventually he meets his competition in the vacant lots and buildings: the artists Steve Durkee and Mark di Suvero. Durkee and Indiana begin collecting together, which permits them to carry larger beams back to their respective lofts. The first two small beams Indiana works on become his first freestanding constructions, Pair and French Atomic Bomb.
Begins work on a large canvas measuring 72 by 60 inches that he will call Agadir (later repainted as The American Dream, I), after the location of a recent earthquake in Morocco.
French Atomic Bomb appears in the landmark exhibition New Media—New Forms I at the Martha Jackson Gallery (June 1–24), the first major showcase of current assemblage works. Rolf Nelson, a neighbor on Coenties Slip and the director of the gallery, selects Indiana’s work for the show. The work is later gifted to the Museum of Modern Art, New York by Arne Ekstrom.
Creates Hole, a new construction on which he stencils the word “hole” in raw sienna across the central face of the beam—possibly the first recorded use of a word on his constructions. The title, he notes in his journal, is a reference to Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy.
While cleaning out an unused area of Lenore Tawney’s studio, Indiana uncovers a cache of nineteenth-century brass stencils originally used for labeling crates and packaging. These objects spark his interest in using stenciled letters, and one in particular, “The American Hay Company,” will inspire his use of words in a circular format.
Completes Duncan’s Column, named after Jack Youngerman’s son Duncan. Salvaged from one of the older buildings on the slip, the column had been cut down from a ship’s mast and used in rebuilding after the Great Fire of New York burned Lower Manhattan in 1835. Duncan’s Column is among the first works in which words become the central focus. The words wrapping around the column are a record of important places and figures in the Coenties Slip neighborhood.
Indiana begins work on Election, a painting inspired by John F. Kennedy’s victory.
Creates his first word painting, Terre Haute. On the black and brown canvas he stencils the words “Terre Haute” in red, between two rows of six-pointed stars, and “Wabash 40” in white. The latter is a reference to the city’s location at the point where Route 40 crosses the Wabash River
"I've been writing all my life. When I was in high school I was a journalism major, I had my own newspaper—the largest newspaper in Alaska—I've always been involved with words, a perfectly natural flow for that to happen."
Begins repainting Agadir as The American Dream I. On January 24, Edward Albee’s The American Dream opens at the York Playhouse in New York. The play, a bitter satire about the ideal of a nuclear family, rings true for Indiana in its depiction of an emasculated father and domineering mother consumed by the banality and smallness of their lives.
Premiums: Steven Durkee, Robert Indiana, and Richard Smith is presented at Paul Sanasardo’s Studio for Dance (March 25–April 22). Durkee and Smith are Indiana’s neighbors on Coenties Slip. All three exhibit assemblages; Indiana is known to have shown a series of constructions including M, and the painting Fun.
Pairing Indiana’s work with that of the sculptor Peter Forakis, Rolf Nelson organizes Indiana / Forakis, a two-person exhibition at the David Anderson Gallery in New York in April. Indiana presents eight constructions and four paintings, The American Dream, I; Election; Ballyhoo; and Terre Haute. Alfred H. Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchases The American Dream, I for the museum’s permanent collection.
Begins a series of paintings incorporating lines of text from the nineteenth-century American authors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville. Referred to by Indiana as “literary paintings,” these works, The Calumet, Year of Meteors, and Melville, are his most ambitious text-based works to date.
In October, Indiana’s sculpture Moon is included in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition The Art of Assemblage, curated by William Seitz. The work is acquired by the museum with money from the Philip Johnson Fund.
In an Artist’s Questionnaire completed for the Museum of Modern Art, Indiana boldly declares his artistic agenda:
I propose to be an American painter, not an internationalist speaking some glib visual Esperanto; possibly I intend to be a Yankee (Cuba, or no Cuba). I am an American painter of signs charting the course. I would be a people’s painter as well as a painter’s painter. I feel that I am at the front of a wave not over-dense with fish.
The Museum of Modern Art includes The American Dream, I in its exhibition Recent Acquisitions: Painting and Sculpture (December 19, 1961–February 25, 1962); the work is prominently featured in press accounts of the show.
Indiana paints Eat/Die and begins The Green Diamond Eat/The Red Diamond Die. The paintings, Indiana’s bluntest and most direct works to date, are in fact among his most personal, inspired by his mother’s dying words to him. The word “Eat” appears in more than half a dozen paintings and nearly a dozen drawings between 1961 and 1962.
Begins work on a polygon series, ten canvases depicting a central numeral ranging from three to twelve inside a polygon of the corresponding number of sides. This series marks Indiana’s first use of Arabic numerals as a central motif in his work, and he begins adding numbers to his herms and constructions.
In March, Eleanor Ward offers Indiana a solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery to take place in the fall.
With multiple exhibitions scheduled for the year ahead, Indiana works at a furious pace over the next several months. He begins reworking many of his sculptures from 1960, bringing them into focus with his current direction by the addition of bold color, graphic elements, and stenciled numbers and words.
Begins work on his second and third American Dream paintings, The Black Diamond American Dream #2 and The Red Diamond American Dream #3. He continues to work on the paintings throughout the summer.
Gene Swenson publishes “The American Sign-Painters” in the September issue of Artnews, one of the earliest attempts to define the burgeoning new movement in American painting, shortly to be known as Pop art. Swenson offers an analysis of the work of Jim Dine, Steve Durkee, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Richard Smith, and Andy Warhol.
Robert Indiana, the artist’s first solo exhibition, opens at the Stable Gallery, New York, in October, and features twelve paintings and a number of constructions.
The Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, presents the International Exhibition of the New Realists (October 31–December 1). Indiana’s The Black Diamond American Dream #2 is included in the exhibition and is sold in early 1963 to Ambassador William A. M. Burden, the chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Paints The Demuth American Dream No. 5, a work in the form of a cross made up of five square canvases and measuring 12 by 12 feet in all. The central canvas translates Charles Demuth’s painting I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928) into Indiana’s own visual language. This painting is followed by four ancillary works: The X-5, The Figure 5, The Demuth Five, and The Small Diamond Demuth Five.
Designs a costume for James Waring’s “At the Hallelujah Gardens,” an experimental happening presented at the Hunter College Playhouse, New York. The costume for the character Icarus, performed by the dancer Fred Herko, includes wheels that are strapped to Herko’s ankles, waist, biceps, and head, effectively turning him into one of Indiana’s herms.
New Glory Penny, Indiana’s reimagining of the one-cent coin, appears on the front and back covers of Art in America’s fiftieth anniversary issue (April 1963). A more detailed rendering of the decagonal coin—which he proposes casting in polychromatic plastic—is included in the magazine. The work is commissioned by the curator Thomas Messer for Coins by Sculptors, a joint project of the periodical and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where the exhibition opens in May. Indiana paints two versions of The New Glory Penny and creates a serigraph based on the design.
Numbers (later retitled Four Numbers Summing 30) is included in the exhibition De A à Z, 1963: 31 peintres américains choisis par the Art Institute of Chicago at the Centre Culturel Américain, Paris (May 10–June 20), the first time his work is shown in Europe.
Americans 1963, curated by Dorothy C. Miller, opens at the Museum of Modern Art (May 22–August 18). The exhibition features Indiana and fourteen other artists; an entire gallery is devoted to Indiana’s paintings and sculptures.
Invited to contribute to a benefit exhibition in support of Bertrand Russell’s Peace Foundation, which has been established to promote nuclear disarmament, Indiana paints Yield Brother. The International Exhibition and Sale of Works of Art in Aid of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Woburn Abbey, Northampton, England, opens in October.
The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, presents Richard Stankiewicz, Robert Indiana: An Exhibition of Recent Sculptures and Paintings (October 22–November 24), the first museum exhibition of Indiana’s work. Fourteen paintings and the construction Marine Works are shown. The exhibition subsequently travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.
Indiana’s Yield Brother II, dedicated to President Kennedy, who had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, is included in the Annual Exhibition 1963: Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art (December 11, 1963–February 2, 1964). It is the first of his four appearances in the Whitney Annuals: 1963, 1965, 1966, and 1967.
Creates two lithographs for 1¢ Life, a volume of poetry and original lithographs by Walasse Ting and edited by the painter Sam Francis. Indiana’s contributions, Sex Anyone and Four Winds, are inspired by lines from Ting’s poetry. Ting invites nearly fifty artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, to contribute prints to the volume.
Indiana, and his cat, Particci, appear in Andy Warhol’s Eat, a 39-minute, slow-motion, silent film of Indiana eating a single mushroom. The concept for the film, which was made at 25 Coenties Slip, was Indiana’s, although what he envisioned as a feast Warhol reconceived as a study in the elapse of time.
Ends his relationship with John Kloss, who moves out of 31 Coenties Slip to Kips Bay Plaza on East 33rd Street.
Exhibits EAT, a twenty-foot-square electric work commissioned by Philip Johnson for the curved façade of the Theaterama, one of the three components of the New York State Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Nine other artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist, are included in the exhibition which opens on April 22nd. The flashing lights of EAT are turned on for the first days of the fair, but when the work attracts large crowds looking for a nonexistent restaurant, the sign is “unplugged” and remains so for the duration of the fair.
The Albert A. List Foundation commissions Indiana to design a poster for the April 23 opening of the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center. Indiana’s painting New York State Theater, the basis for the poster, hangs in the east lobby of the plaza level of Philharmonic Hall.
Donates The Black Yield Brother III to the benefit exhibition Artists for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) (May 6–16). Donations of other paintings follow in 1965 and 1966.
The Stable Gallery opens Robert Indiana: New Art, his second solo exhibition, on Mother’s Day with a concert of Virgil Thomson’s music. The exhibition has as its centerpiece Mother and Father, a large diptych portraying his parents. The Electric EAT, a circular sign six and a half feet in diameter and with electric lights flashing the word “Eat,” is installed in the gallery’s garden.
Begins his Numbers series: ten canvases, each measuring 60 by 50 inches and featuring the Arabic numerals one through zero. He selects the colors of each canvas to correspond with his interpretation of the ten stages of life. The numerals themselves, based on a business calendar he finds in an office supply store, are modified to fit the format of his canvases.
Zero is included in Group Zero at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (October 30–December 11), the first major U.S. museum exhibition of the international art movement founded by Otto Piene and Günther Uecker. Indiana is the only American included in the show, and his work is featured on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Although he is not affiliated with the group, he and Uecker later become friends and will exchange works in the late 1960s. The exhibition subsequently travels to the Washington Museum of Modern Art, Washington, D.C.
In December, creates a series of drawings of the word “love” in graphite and colored pencil and using frottage. These are the first works depicting the word in the square, two-letters-over-two format: an L and a tilted O, stacked above the letters V and E. These drawings are sent as Christmas cards to friends and acquaintances in the art world including Dorothy C. Miller, Jan van der Marck, Gene Swenson, and Richard Brown Baker. Over the next several months Indiana will experiment with this—and other words in the same format—painting the first canvases in his LOVE series.
Participates in “Art Now,” a lecture series at the Baltimore Museum of Art. After the lecture he meets William C. Katz, a graduate student in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The two will see each other again several times that spring in New York, and Indiana introduces Katz to Andy Warhol, Marisol, and James Rosenquist, among others.
Virgil Thomson invites Indiana to design the sets and costumes for a production of his opera The Mother of Us All, written in 1947 and with a libretto by Gertrude Stein, at the Opera Workshop, the University of California, Los Angeles. Indiana makes several preliminary sketches for the project but, because the budget for the production is small and the lead time short, turns down the invitation.
In the Twenty-Ninth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (February 26–April 18), a room is devoted to Indiana’s paintings, including his most recent American Dream painting, USA 666 (The Sixth American Dream), exhibited here for the first time.
On March 7, Alabama state-troopers and white supremacists brutally attack civil rights marchers who are protesting peacefully in Selma, Alabama; a date that is remembered as Bloody Sunday. The attack provokes outrage across the country and leads to President Lyndon B. Johnson submitting the Voting Rights Act to Congress. The events inspire Indiana’s painting Alabama, one of two works in Indiana’s Confederacy series that are painted in the months that follow. The series intended to highlight the civil rights struggle in the states of the former Confederacy.
In April, The Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, invites Indiana to submit a work of art for its Christmas card program. Indiana presents three LOVE paintings in different color combinations. In May Indiana is informed that the museum selected the red, blue, and green version for the card.
The Rolf Nelson Gallery in Los Angeles mounts Robert Indiana, the artist’s first solo exhibition on the West Coast (May 10–June 5), presenting Indiana’s Numbers series: ten paintings each measuring 60 by 50 inches and ten paintings each 24 inches square.
Faced with the impending demolition of 25 Coenties Slip, Indiana moves his studio to a loft in a former luggage factory at 2 Spring Street on the southwest corner of Bowery and Spring Streets.
On June 15, attends the White House Festival of the Arts, a one-day celebration of visual art, music, and poetry conceived to highlight the importance of the arts in the United States. In a group exhibition of sixty-five works, Indiana is represented by The Calumet; the show is subsequently transferred to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Indiana’s The Figure 5 is hung in the Old Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. on September 14, as part of a traveling exhibition to honor the Indiana State Arts Commission and the state’s sesquicentennial. At the end of the exhibition, Indiana’s work is hung in the White House, where it will remain for nearly two years.
In the fall, William Katz moves from Baltimore and into Indiana’s loft at 2 Spring Street
Word and Image, curated by Lawrence Alloway, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents works since 1947 in which words and language play a significant role. Five of Indiana’s works are shown. At the exhibition opening on December 7, Indiana meets the German art dealer Alfred Schmela, who agrees to present Indiana’s first European exhibition.
Painting and Sculpture Today, 1966 at the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis (January 2–30), includes USA 666 (The Sixth American Dream); this is the first work of Indiana’s to be exhibited in his home state. Not having been home in over a decade, he attends the opening and spends several weeks in Indianapolis.
Robert Indiana: Number Paintings, Indiana’s first European solo exhibition (March 4–31), is presented at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, Germany. The exhibition features the Number canvases previously exhibited at Rolf Nelson Gallery in Los Angeles. All the works are sold, and the exhibition subsequently travels to five museums in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. Schmela will be responsible for placing Indiana’s work with many major museums and private collections in Europe.
Multiplicity, a group exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (April 16–June 5), examines new attitudes toward serial composition in contemporary art. Indiana’s Four Sixes is shown here for the first time.
The exhibition Robert Indiana opens at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in the Netherlands (April 30–June 5). The show highlights the museum’s acquisition of The Red Diamond American Dream #3 and includes the Number paintings recently exhibited at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf.
The Stable Gallery opens its third solo Indiana exhibition (May 3–28), featuring the artist’s first LOVE sculpture, his Cardinal Numbers series, and LOVE paintings in different configurations. The majority of the works in the show are painted in red, green, and blue, a color combination he associates with his father. Earl Clark was employed by Phillips 66 and ingrained in Indiana’s mind is the company’s red and green neon sign, which stood out boldly against a blue Indianapolis sky.
Gene Swenson publishes the essay “The Horizons of Robert Indiana,” a reconsideration of Indiana’s career and his unique place in American art of the 1960s, in the May issue of Artnews.
Accepts a commission to design the sets and costumes of Virgil Thomson’s opera The Mother of Us All for a performance at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in January 1967. Indiana and Thomson have been planning the production since early 1965.
In September, Indiana’s largest solo exhibition to date opens at Dayton’s 12 Gallery in Minneapolis.
The X-5 is included in Art of the United States, 1670–1966, the inaugural exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building on Madison Avenue (September 28–November 27), which was designed by Marcel Breuer.
LOVE, a red, blue, and green canvas measuring 72 inches square, is acquired by the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis. The painting is exhibited in One Hundred and Fifty Years of Indiana Art at the Ball State University Art Gallery in Muncie (October 9–December 31). Indiana attends the opening.
Indiana designs the cover for the fortieth anniversary issue of Arts Magazine, the first commissioned variation on his LOVE design. The cover shows a mirrored “40” in red, yellow, black, and blue on a white background.
A recital of Virgil Thomson’s Piano Portraits and Pieces, including the debut of Thomson’s most recent composition “Edges (A Portrait of Robert Indiana,”) by the pianist John Wustman is held at 2 Spring Street on December 30. Indiana paints Yield Brother Virgil for Thomson and Yield Brother John for Wustman.
Indiana produces LOVE, a 34-inch-square serigraph based on his red, blue, and green LOVE. The print is sold in two editions, one edition of 250 signed and numbered prints is priced at $100, and a second, of 2,275 unsigned and unnumbered prints, is priced at $15 each. Both editions are published by Multiples, Inc. in conjunction with Mass Originals, New York, a poster distributor founded by Eugene Schwartz, contributing to the widespread dissemination of the image.
Designs the sets, costumes, and poster for Virgil Thomson’s opera The Mother of Us All, presented by the Center Opera Company of the Walker Art Center and the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Indiana revises the original scenario by introducing a Model T Ford to the production. Indiana’s Mother and Father is shown simultaneously in the adjacent Walker Art Center.
In June, American Painting Now, curated by Alan Solomon, opens in the American Pavilion at Expo ’67 (the 1967 International and Universal Exposition) in Montreal. The pavilion, an enormous glass geodesic dome designed by the architect Buckminster Fuller, accommodates works of unprecedented scale. The ten canvases of Indiana’s The Cardinal Numbers are hung in a vertical column 50 feet high. The show subsequently travels to the Horticultural Hall in Boston, where The Cardinal Numbers are installed horizontally.
Indiana is commissioned by the Association of Progressive German Dealers to design the poster for Kunstmarkt in Cologne, Germany. Galerie Schmela mounts an exhibition of his work during the fair.
Exhibits in São Paulo 9: Environment United States, 1957–1967, curated by William Seitz for the American Pavilion of the ninth Bienal de São Paulo (September 22, 1967–January 8, 1968).
LOVE (later renamed The Great LOVE) is exhibited in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, the triennial exhibition of international art at the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh (October 27, 1967–January 7, 1968), and is acquired by the museum for its permanent collection.
The Metamorphosis of Norma Jean Mortenson is shown for the first time in Homage to Marilyn Monroe at the Sidney Janis Gallery (December 6–30), a benefit for the Association for Mentally Ill Children in Manhattan, Inc. Comprising the work of nearly fifty artists, the exhibition is organized to mark the fifth anniversary of Monroe’s death. Norma Jean is among Indiana’s first works in acrylic paint, a medium he turned to in 1967 because of the demands on his time: acrylics dry faster than oil paints do.
The Museum of Modern Art issues its second holiday card by Indiana, an embossed image on white card stock that is a variation on The American Dream, I, but with the numerals 1, 2, 2, and 5 (or “12/25”) in the center of the circles.
Indiana and Katz travel to Pittsburgh to see the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture. There Indiana meets Fritz Honisch of Editions Domberger in Stuttgart, West Germany. Honisch is enthusiastic about working on a project with him, and Editions Domberger will, for the next twenty years, be the primary publisher of Indiana’s prints.
Indiana and Katz travel to Buffalo, where they stay with Robert Creeley and conceive plans for the Numbers portfolio to be published by Editions Domberger. Creeley agrees to write a sequence of ten poems to accompany the prints of the paintings.
Indiana attends the unveiling of his poster for HemisFair ’68 in San Antonio, Texas. The world’s fair runs from April 6 to October 6.
Robert Indiana, the artist’s first retrospective exhibition, consisting of thirty-eight works, including early constructions and herms, paintings, prints, and posters, from 1960 to the present, opens at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (April 27–May 17). The exhibition subsequently travels to the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas, and to the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis. Along with several new commentaries on his paintings, Indiana’s contributions to the exhibition catalogue include his “Autochronology,” a playful text in which he relates his biography and observations on the times.
At the invitation of the Aspen Center for the Humanistic Studies (now the Aspen Institute), Indiana spends the summer in Colorado, where he is one of five artists-in-residence at the Aspen Center for Contemporary Art. During the summer he creates what he calls “small bijou LOVEs,” a series of paintings all on 12-inch-square canvases. These works consist of one, two, or four panels and appear in grisaille and a variety of color combinations. Indiana: Summer in Aspen, a one-day exhibition of Indiana’s Numbers portfolio with poems by Robert Creeley, is held at the Hunter Gallery, on August 18.
The Cardinal Numbers, LOVE Wall, The Red Diamond American Dream #3, and Yield Brother II, together with the sculpture LOVE, are included in Documenta 4: Internationale Ausstellung in Kassel, Germany (June 27–October 6).
In July, Indiana and Katz attend the opening of his retrospective exhibition at the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute in San Antonio. The collector Robert L. B. Tobin purchases The Metamorphosis of Norma Jean Mortenson from the exhibition for $10,000, the highest price paid for a canvas of this size by Indiana.
Indiana and Katz attend the opening of his retrospective at the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis. On the artist’s fortieth birthday, the mayor of Indianapolis proclaims September 13 “Robert Indiana Day.” One of the small LOVE paintings completed in Aspen is acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Henry F. DeBoest, the president of the board of the John Herron Art Institute, marking the first acquisition of his work for a private collection in Indianapolis.
Love Rising (The Black and White Love) is included in the memorial exhibition In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (October 31–November 3).
Robert Indiana: Graphics, a full survey of Indiana’s graphics and posters, is organized and exhibited by the Department of Art of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame (June 12–July 6). The accompanying catalogue is designed by William Katz, and follows the design and dimensions of that for the previous year’s retrospective exhibition in Philadelphia, the paired catalogues documenting the artist’s oeuvre to date.
In July, serves as a visiting artist and lectures at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. And in August serves as a visiting artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. While there, Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon extends an invitation to visit his home on the island of Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine. On Vinalhaven, Indiana discovers the Star of Hope Lodge, built in 1883 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Elisofon buys the building and rents the top floor to Indiana for use as a studio.
Spends a month working in the Star of Hope Lodge. He will return every year, typically for several months in the fall, until 1978, when he moves to Vinalhaven permanently.
Indiana creates three 24-inch-square ART paintings and one 72-inch-square ART painting. In the ART image, his first new ideogram since LOVE, flat planes of color define the space around and within the three letters—pushing the word even further from legibility and toward abstraction.
Designs the cover of the January–February issue of Art in America.
Terre Haute No. 2 debuts in The Highway: An Exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (January 14–February 25). The painting is one of two recent works, the other being New Castle, in which Indiana revisits places in the state of Indiana and the highways and rivers that pass through them.
Donates Halleluiah to An Exhibition and Sale for the Studio Museum in Harlem held at the Martha Jackson Gallery (January 27–31). The work is purchased by the Chase Manhattan Bank for its Rockefeller Collection and is later acquired by the Menil Collection, Houston.
Klischee + Antiklischee: Bildformen der Gegenwart at the Neue Galerie in Aachen, Germany (February 28–April 18), includes Love Rising (The Black and White Love) and Der Mond – Die Braunschaft; the collector Peter Ludwig purchases both paintings.
Indiana designs the exhibition poster for American Art since 1960 at the Princeton University Art Museum (May 6–27), curated by Sam Hunter. The poster marks the first public appearance of his ART image. The image also appears in the poster for the Inaugural Exhibition of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in October 1970.
Indiana’s LOVE, a twelve-foot-high sculpture fabricated of Cor-Ten steel, is completed at Lippincott, Inc., in North Haven, Connecticut. The work has its public debut in Seven Outside, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (formerly the John Herron Art Institute) in October.
Designs banners, which are hung on the façade of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the poster for the exhibition Four Americans in Paris: The Collections of Gertrude Stein and Her Family (December 19, 1970–March 1, 1971). Also designs a limited-edition print The American Four, published by the museum, that commemorates the show.
Begins the Decade: Autoportrait series, which will comprise thirty canvases, three groups of ten paintings in three sizes, 24-, 48-, and 72-inches square. The series is a portrait of Indiana’s life in the 1960s, a record of important names, places, and events from that decade. In the series, Indiana develops a visual vocabulary that resists easy reading, unlike his earlier sign-paintings, in which clarity and directness were emphasized.
Indiana’s Decade portfolio, published by Multiples, Inc., goes on view at the Multiples galleries in New York and Los Angeles and at galleries in seventeen other cities around the United States. The portfolio consists of serigraphs of ten of his paintings—a representative work for each year from 1960 through 1969.
LOVE, Indiana’s twelve-foot-high Cor-Ten sculpture, is installed in City Hall Park in Boston in October as part of the exhibition Monumental Sculpture for Public Spaces organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
LOVE travels to New York, where it is installed at the Fifth Avenue and Sixtieth Street entrance to Central Park (November 29, 1971–January 5, 1972). The exhibition is arranged by Indiana and Carl Weinhardt, Jr., the director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, through the New York City Office of Cultural Affairs. Following the exhibition, the sculpture is returned to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where it will remain on long-term loan.
Travels to Indianapolis in February to oversee the installation of LOVE outside One Indiana Square, the headquarters of the Indiana National Bank, which also hosts a public exhibition of his paintings and prints.
Designs the poster for Virgil Thomson’s Lord Byron: An Opera in Three Acts (with a libretto by Jack Larson), which has it premiere at the Juilliard Theater in Lincoln Center, New York. Indiana will design the cover of the score for the opera when it is published by Southern Music in 1975.
Robert Indiana: New Paintings and Sculpture opens at the Galerie Denise René, New York (November 22–December 30). The exhibition marks the debut of his 24- and 48-inch-square Decade: Autoportrait paintings, a new large-scale painting LOVE, The Louisiana Purchase Variation (later renamed The Great American LOVE) and several LOVE and ART sculptures.
The United States Postal Service commissions a stamp design by Indiana and releases the eight-cent LOVE stamp in advance of Valentine’s Day. Unveiled in a ceremony at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the stamp becomes so popular that 425 million are printed over the next two years. The unveiling is accompanied by a special, one-day exhibition at the museum. For his work on the design, Indiana receives a flat fee of a thousand dollars.
John Huszar’s film Robert Indiana Portrait premieres on CBS-TV's Camera Three on January 30.
The seven-foot-high, red and blue ART, recently exhibited at Galerie Denise René, is installed outdoors as part of the opening of the new Colby Art Museum, Colby College, Waterville, Maine (September 16–November 3). Indiana creates two prints Colby Art and Colby Tondo, and a poster inspired by the small painting ART in the museum’s collection. The museum subsequently adopts his design as its logo.
Nine Artists: Coenties Slip at the Whitney Museum of American Art Downtown Branch (January 10–February 14) is the first museum exhibition of the work of Indiana and his contemporaries considered as a group. Indiana’s The Melville Triptych and Mate are shown alongside the work of Charles Hinman, Ellsworth Kelly, Fred Mitchell, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, Ann Wilson, and Jack Youngerman.
To mark the first anniversary of Picasso’s death, Artnews publishes statements by Indiana and five other artists about his influence on them. Completes two paintings, Picasso and Picasso II, as studies for the serigraph Picasso, his contribution to Hommage à Picasso, a project conceived in 1973 to mark Picasso’s ninetieth birthday, but published after his death by Propyläen Verlag, Berlin.
American Pop Art, the first major historical survey of the movement, is presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (April 6–June 16). The exhibition, curated by Lawrence Alloway, features seventy-seven works by seventeen artists. Indiana is represented by five paintings: The Calumet, Year of Meteors, Eat/Die, The X-5, and Louisiana.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., opens in October. Indiana is one of four artists invited to design a poster to commemorate the occasion. Indiana’s painting The Beware-Danger American Dream #4 is included in the inaugural exhibition.
The 72-inch Decade: Autoportrait 1965 is exhibited in the Thirty-Fourth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (February 22–April 6). It is the first of the ten 72-inch-square canvases in the Decade: Autoportrait series to be shown publicly and the image is reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art purchases the monumental Cor-Ten steel sculpture LOVE in honor of its former president Henry F. DeBoest, who died in an automobile crash in December 1973. DeBoest was instrumental in Indiana’s first realizing the sculpture, which has been on long-term loan to the museum.
Robert Indiana: Selected Prints at the Galerie Denise René, New York (December 12, 1975–January 10, 1976), features his new portfolio of seven Polygon prints, based loosely on Indiana’s Polygon paintings of 1962. Versions of the sculptures LOVE and ART are also exhibited.
The Neuberger Museum, State University of New York at Purchase, acquires and permanently installs Indiana’s 7-foot-high red and blue ART on its campus.
The Santa Fe Opera presents Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All. Indiana creates the sets, costumes, and poster, for the opera which is is presented on August 7, 11, 20, and 25 of the following year. An exhibition of Indiana's designs for the opera is shown at the Galerie Denise René, New York.
In September, Indiana installs the 72-inch-high, red, green, and purple sculpture LOVE on the John F. Kennedy Plaza, Philadelphia, near City Hall, as part of the city’s bicentennial celebration.
Indiana’s poster VOTE is published to benefit the Democratic National Committee and Jimmy Carter’s bid for the presidency. In recognition of his contribution Indiana is invited to, and attends, the presidential inauguration in January 1977.
Purchases the Star of Hope Lodge from the estate of Eliot Elisofon.
Robert Indiana, curated by Robert L. B. Tobin, opens at the Michener Galleries, University of Texas, Austin (September 25–November 6). The exhibition is his first retrospective since 1968. The show travels to the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Neuberger Museum at the State University of New York–Purchase, New York; and the Art Center, South Bend, Indiana. The complete series of 72-inch-square Decade: Autoportrait paintings is exhibited in Austin for the first time; forty-one additional paintings and sculptures are shown.
Commissioned to design and paint the home basketball court of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette University Warriors, Indiana becomes the first and only artist to design a court for the National Basketball Association. The floor, which measures 94 by 50 feet, is the largest work he will ever realize.
The dealer Denise René closes her gallery in New York after six years, leaving Indiana without a dealer.
Unable to raise the $45,000 purchase price, the City of Philadelphia removes Indiana’s sculpture LOVE from the John F. Kennedy Plaza. Two weeks later, following a public outcry, Eugene Dixon, the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, purchases the sculpture and donates it to the city.
Loses the lease on his Spring Street studio after thirteen years. The landlord Jack Klein had informed him earlier in the year of his intention to sell the building, and Indiana, unable to raise the money to purchase it, decides to move permanently to Vinalhaven. Much of the next five years of his life will be devoted to restoring the Star of Hope Lodge.
The monumental Cor-Ten sculpture AHAVA (the Hebrew word for “love”), produced by Lipipncott, is installed at the entrance to Central Park at Fifth Avenue and Sixtieth Street (October 25, 1978–January 15, 1979), where LOVE had been shown in 1971. Later AHAVA travels to its permanent home at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Continuing the theme of the Decade: Autoportrait series, Indiana begins work on the Vinalhaven Suite, a portfolio of serigraphs. The series focuses on the decade of the 70s, and will be published as Decade: Autoportraits, Vinalhaven Suite in 1980 by Multiples, Inc.
Indiana receives his largest commission to date from Marvin Simon & Associates, an Indianapolis based-developer of shopping malls. The work, ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), consists of ten monumental, polychrome aluminum sculptures. Simon intends to install each of the numbers at properties he owns around the city of Indianapolis, and eventually to donate the entire group to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Rents a building, referred to as the sail loft, near his home, the Star of Hope Lodge, to use as a sculpture studio. After several months spent renovating the building, he begins a series of constructions, his first since the early 1960s, using beams salvaged years earlier on Coenties Slip and brought with him from New York. The first of these new works are Monarchy, Bay, and Sun.
The Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Kansas, acquires a six-foot-high, green and blue sculpture LOVE for its permanent collection.
Indiana leaves Vinalhaven for the first time in fifteen months and travels to Washington, D.C., where he visits the White House and presents President Jimmy Carter with a copy of his most recent print, An Honest Man Has Been President. The work is part of a Presidential Portfolio, compiled for the Carter-Mondale campaign.
Decade: Autoportraits, Vinalhaven Suite is shown at the Colby College Museum of Art. On May 31, Indiana is awarded an honorary doctorate by the college.
The Star of Hope Lodge is included in the National Register of Historic places.
Indiana’s Indianas, a twenty-year survey of works from his personal collection, opens at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine (July 16–September 26); the show travels to six museums in Maine, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Michigan. Indiana produces a new serigraph, Decade: Autoportrait 1969, V/H, to benefit the Farnsworth. The print is based on the 72-inch-square painting Decade: Autoportrait 1969 that commemorates his first visit to Vinalhaven.
Fire Bridge is included in the exhibition The Great East River Bridge, 1983–1993, marking the centennial of the Brooklyn Bridge, at the Brooklyn Museum (March 19–June 19).
Contributes a new serigraph The Bridge to the portfolio New York, New York, published by the New York Graphic Society. The portfolio, conceived to celebrate both the status of New York City as the center of global culture and the hundredth anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge, also includes prints by Red Grooms, Alex Katz, R. B. Kitaj, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, and James Rosenquist.
Indiana completes the first phase of renovations on the Star of Hope Lodge, having added new roofing and restored the façade on Main Street; it will take him several more years of work to finish the remaining three sides of the building.
Wood Works: Constructions by Robert Indiana, the first museum exhibition devoted to Indiana’s wood constructions, opens at the National Museum of American Art (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum), Washington, D.C. (May 1–September 3); the show travels to the Portland Museum of Art, Maine. The exhibition is curated by Virginia Mecklenburg. Indiana completes two new constructions in time for the show, Sun and Five, the latter subsequently donated to the museum by the artist because it was conceived of as a companion to the painting The Figure 5, which is already in the museum’s permanent collection. Several other works are shown for the first time.
Indiana creates Ash and Thoth, the first in his series of large-scale Vinalhaven constructions, for which he incorporates wood salvaged from old piers and from the old granite quarry on the island.
Patricia Nick opens Vinalhaven Press, which will become Indiana’s primary print workshop over the next decade.
The American Dream, I is included in Pop Art, 1955–1970, a traveling exhibition sponsored by the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art (February 27–April 14). The show opens at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and travels to Melbourne and Brisbane.
Simon Salama-Caro, of the Salama-Caro Gallery in London, is introduced to Indiana through their mutual friend the artist Bernar Venet. Salama-Caro visits Indiana in Vinalhaven in the fall of 1987 and again several times over the next year. Indiana, who has been reluctant to work with another gallery, is won over by Salama-Caro’s interest in realizing a project Indiana has dreamed about since the 1960s—having his early herms cast in bronze.
The Virginia Lust Gallery in New York presents Robert Indiana: Paintings from the Sixties (January 14–March 18), the artist’s first New York solo exhibition in thirteen years. The show is drawn largely from the collection of Virginia, and her husband Herbert Lust.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art announces its acquisition of Indiana’s ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), a donation by Melvin Simon & Associates.
On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Karl von Freyburg, the subject and inspiration for Marsden Hartley’s German Officer paintings, Indiana begins work on his Hartley Elegy series, a project that he has been contemplating since 1980. He will work on this series through 1994, completing eighteen canvases, along with related sculptures and prints.
Indiana selects a group of eight herms to be cast in bronze and entrusts William Katz to direct the project with the support of Simon Salama-Caro. Katz selects the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City to cast the works; Indiana visits New York regularly during the next three years to supervise the casting.
The Berlin Wall falls on November 9. The events in Germany have a deep effect on Indiana’s nascent Hartley Elegy series. Over the coming year he makes several prints directly addressing the fall of the Berlin Wall, including The Wall. Three related lithographs, Wall: Two Stone, Wall: Four Stone, and Wall: Eight Stone, are produced at the Vinalhaven Press.
Robert Indiana, by Carl Weinhardt, Jr., the first monograph on the artist, is published by Harry N. Abrams, an early collector of Indiana’s work.
Park Granada Editions publishes the first five serigraphs of the Hartley Elegies: The Berlin Series. Measuring 77 by 53 inches each, they are his largest and most complex prints to date. A smaller lithograph on the same theme, Für K.V.F., is printed by the Vinalhaven Press and published by the Mezzanine Gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Indiana travels to New York where two solo exhibitions of his work open simultaneously, one at the Marisa del Re Gallery (November 27–December 31), the other at the Vinalhaven Press Gallery (November 27–December 30). Marisa del Re presents his series of ten, 72-inch-square Decade: Autoportrait paintings, the first time they have been exhibited in New York. The Vinalhaven Press exhibits the recently completed Hartley Elegy prints.
Susan Sheehan publishes Robert Indiana Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1951–1991 and presents Robert Indiana Prints: A Retrospective at her gallery in New York (May 16–June 30). In conjunction with the publication and exhibition, Indiana creates a new LOVE print.
Marisa del Re commissions and organizes the installation of a monumental, twelve-foot-high, red and blue LOVE sculpture as part of the IIIème Biennale de Sculpture Monte Carlo, Monaco (May 25–September 30).
Robert Indiana: Early Sculpture, 1960–1962 is presented at the Salama-Caro Gallery, London (September 12–November 9). The first gallery exhibition devoted to Indiana’s early herms, the show presents thirty-three works, including nine herms, six columns, and the first eight examples of the recently completed bronze casts. Additionally, the exhibition includes early paintings from Indiana’s collection and two early constructions. Indiana travels to London, his first visit there since 1954, for the opening.
The Royal Academy of Arts, London, includes Indiana’s work in its international survey The Pop Art Show (September 13–December 15); the exhibition travels to the Ludwig Museum, Cologne; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Susan Elizabeth Ryan completes “Figures of Speech: The Art of Robert Indiana, 1958–73,” the first dissertation on Indiana’s work. For her study, Ryan gains unprecedented access to Indiana and his personal archives. Updated to cover his work through the early 1990s, the dissertation is published as Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech by Yale University Press in 2000. The book lays the groundwork for much of the critical reevaluation of Indiana’s work that will occur in the decades that follow.
The curator Fumio Nanjo visits Indiana and commissions a 12-foot-high, red, blue, and green LOVE sculpture. The work is later acquired and permanently installed in front of the I-Land Tower in Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo’s central business district.
Simon Salama-Caro travels with Indiana to Singapore to oversee the installation of a monumental, blue and green sculpture LOVE. The work had previously been shown in the Montreal installation of the Royal Academy of Arts’ Pop art exhibition. It is the last Indiana sculpture the foundry produces before it closes in 1994.
Dictated by Life: Marsden Hartley’s German Paintings and Robert Indiana’s Hartley Elegies is presented by the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (April 14–June 18). The joint exhibition brings together fifteen of Indiana’s Hartley Elegy paintings and the largest assembly of Marsden Hartley’s war-motif paintings since they were first shown in 1915. The exhibition travels to the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, and the Frost Art Museum at the Florida International University, Miami.
In conversation with Simon Salama-Caro, Indiana mentions his long-standing wish that the series of editioned sculptures, LOVE, ART, AHAVA, and ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) be completed within his lifetime. Years earlier, he had planned out the multiple color combinations and sizes of each series of editioned works. Recognizing the extraordinary costs needed to realize this ambitious project, Salama-Caro secures funding from Morgan Art Foundation. Indiana introduces Salama-Caro to the fabricator Milgo/Bufkin in Brooklyn, New York, the company he has been working with since Lippincott, Inc. closed.
Robert Indiana: The Hartley Elegies is presented by the Indianapolis Museum of Art (January 13–March 31).
Indiana receives a commission for the VIème Biennale de Sculpture Monte-Carlo, in Monaco (May 24–October 31), from Marisa del Re. The exhibition is part of the larger commemoration of the seven hundred years that the principality has been governed by the Grimaldi family. Indiana completes two works, an 8-foot-high Seven and an 18-inch-high 700, both in red and white, the colors of the Monaco flag. In advance of the biennale, Indiana also paints two variations of The Monaco 7.
The thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe; a series of events and coincidences during the coming year—among them the flood of books reexamining Monroe’s life and death, the death of Joe DiMaggio, and President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky—inspires Indiana’s return to Monroe as a subject thirty years after painting The Metamorphosis of Norma Jean Mortenson. He completes The Black Marilyn, a canvas that he had started in 1967 and kept in storage. Thirteen additional canvases in the series are completed in 1999 and 2000.
Indiana enters into two agreements with Morgan Art Foundation. The first outlines the planned funding and production of his sculpture editions to be fabricated with Milgo. The second agreement assigns copyrights to the images to Morgan Art Foundation. Indiana and Morgan Art Foundation entrust Artist’s Rights Society (ARS) to assist with the monitoring and protection of these intellectual rights. Indiana for the first time sees the rip-offs and unauthorized and commercialized reproductions and appropriations of LOVE and other works put to an end. He also begins to receive payment for the use of his images, something that, with the proliferation of counterfeit LOVE works, he had given up on in the early 1970s.
Reflecting on his visit to Florence in 1954, Indiana suggests to Simon Salama-Caro that the LOVE sculpture be realized in marble. He views marble as one of the two noble materials, along with bronze, in the Western tradition of sculpture. With Salama-Caro as the go-between, Indiana will liaise closely with Bottega Versiliese, a small sculpture workshop in Pietrasanta, where, over the next thirteen years, fifty sculptures are carved from a variety of marbles. Indiana himself selects the marbles and approves details of the carving and the finish.
The American Dream, a limited-edition book of thirty serigraphs, with poems by Robert Creeley, is published by Marco Fine Arts Contemporary Atelier, El Segundo, California.
Robert Indiana: Rétrospective, 1958–1998 (June 26–November 22), Indiana’s first full-scale museum retrospective in Europe, opens at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice. This, the largest survey of Indiana’s career to date, includes works from five decades and marks the first public showing of The X-7 and The Seventh American Dream, works created in honor of this show and signaling his return to the American Dream series thirty-two years after he completed The Sixth American Dream. Indiana is recognized as a Citoyen d’honneur (“honorary citizen”) by the mayor of Nice. The Seventh American Dream is acquired by the museum.
Love and the American Dream: The Art of Robert Indiana, a retrospective exhibition, is presented by the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 24–October 17); the show subsequently travels to the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, Georgia. The exhibition of nearly seventy works, curated by Aprile Gallant, is Indiana’s first U.S. retrospective since 1976 and traces the evolution of his work from the early herms through the late 1990s.
Paints The Eighth American Dream, which he dedicates to his mother Carmen. The number eight was associated in his memory with his mother (she was born in August), in the same way that six was his father’s number.
PAX (now the Center to Prevent Youth Violence) commissions Indiana to design a poster for its campaign against gun violence. The poster, LOVE 2000, is displayed on the sides of buses and bus kiosks in cities across the United States.
Crossroads of American Sculpture opens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (October 14, 2000–January 21, 2001). Curated by Holliday T. Day, the exhibition explores the work of six major twentieth-century sculptors whose roots lie in the state: John Chamberlain, Bruce Nauman, George Rickey, David Smith, William T. Wiley, and Indiana himself. Indiana is represented in the exhibition by twenty works.
The Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis acquires Indiana’s sculpture 2000 and the following year it acquires Indiana’s first word painting, Terre Haute. Governor Frank O’Bannon commissions Indiana to create a work for the museum’s new building; work is begun on The Indiana Obelisk, which is completed in 2002.
Indiana’s 12-foot-high, red and blue sculpture LOVE is installed on Sixth Avenue at Fifty-Fifth Street in New York.
Indiana revisits a group of plywood and Homasote paintings from 1959, which have never been exhibited, adding gold to areas that were previously painted in gesso.
A 12-foot-high, red and blue sculpture LOVE is installed in the entrance to the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, to coincide with the exhibition Les Années Pop: 1956 à 1968 (March 15–June 18). Indiana’s Eat/Die and four early herms are also shown.
Galerie Guy Pieters in Saint-Paul de Vence, France, presents an exhibition of Indiana’s recent work, including twelve paintings from his Marilyn series and examples of his polychrome ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), LOVE, ART, and AHAVA series.
Having stopped in New York while en route to the opening of his exhibition at Galerie Guy Pieters in France, Indiana witnesses the destruction of the World Trade Center. He returns to Vinalhaven and repaints Zeus, his 23-foot-high construction, and renames it Zero in honor of “ground zero,” the name given to the impact site in Lower Manhattan. His first painting after 9/11 is Afghanistan, for which he resurrects the format of his Confederacy series.
The Maine Arts Commission invites Indiana to create a work for the new Maine State House as part of its Percent for Art program. In 2004 The First State to Hail the Rising Sun is permanently installed in the State House.
The recently completed, 48-foot-high The Indiana Obelisk is installed in the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Frank O’Bannon, the governor, declares April 9 “Robert Indiana Day.”
The Shanghai Art Museum presents Robert Indiana, the artist’s first exhibition in China (July 5–August 8). The show is a broad survey of his career and includes one new canvas, The 6666, The American Dream.
Indiana is sent two variations on the Mandarin word for “love” (ài), by Li Xiang Yang, the director of the Shanghai Art Museum. Using these images, he begins work on his Ài series,a group of fourteen paintings executed in two sizes, 80 by 54 inches and 24 by 22 inches.
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona acquires and permanently installs a 12-foot-high, red and blue sculpture LOVE on the city’s Civic Center Mall.
Indiana’s work is reintroduced to New York after a long absence through two concurrent exhibitions, one at C&M Arts (February 13–March 22) and the other at the Paul Kasmin Gallery (February 14–March 22). The two galleries agree to share representation of Indiana’s work.
The exhibition at C&M, Robert Indiana: Letters, Words and Numbers, features works from 1960 to 1970. The gallery also organizes the exhibition of Indiana’s 6-foot-high, polychrome numbers, ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) on Park Avenue (February 3–May 3).
The Paul Kasmin Gallery presents Robert Indiana: Recent Paintings, an exhibition of thirteen canvases from the past five years. The show is the first major presentation of new works by Indiana in New York since 1976.
The Taipei Financial Center, Taiwan, commissions a 12-foot-high, red and gold sculpture LOVE to be installed in front of its tower, the Taipei 101.
The Paul Kasmin Gallery exhibits fifteen of Indiana’s recent Peace paintings (April 21–May 29).
The Price Tower Arts Center, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, opens a solo exhibition of Indiana’s paintings and sculpture; at the show’s close in July, the center purchases the artist’s monumental sculpture Sixty-Six for its plaza.
Leslie Waddington becomes Indiana’s London dealer and presents Robert Indiana: Paintings and Sculpture, 1961–2003, at the Waddington Galleries (September 29–October 23).
The Paul Kasmin Gallery presents Robert Indiana: Wood (September 9–October 8), an exhibition of twenty-one wood constructions, previously unseen in New York.
Completes his Ginkgo Ài series, twelve canvases depicting his doubled ginkgo form on a gold-leaf background overlaid with the word ài (Mandarin for “love”) in two different fonts.
Robert Indiana: A Living Legend is presented at the Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (March 11–April 30).
Robert Indiana, an outdoor exhibition of his monumental sculpture, opens in Madrid on the Paseo del Prado (May 4–July 31). The show includes major examples of LOVE, Imperial LOVE, AMOR, LOVE Wall, and ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers). The exhibition subsequently travels to Valencia, Bilbao, and Lisbon.
September. Eric Breitbart directs Robert Indiana: American Dreamer, an hour-long documentary, for MUSE Film and Television.
Indiana’s Cor-Ten steel LOVE Wall, completed in 2006, is installed on Park Avenue at Fifty-Seventh Street in New York, where it is on display until May 2008.
The Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan presents Indiana’s first solo museum exhibition in Italy (July 4–September 14). Examples of Indiana’s monumental sculptures, including ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers), LOVE Wall, and Imperial LOVE, are installed throughout the city.
September. The Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York presents Robert Indiana: Hard Edge (September 18–November 1), an exhibition of sculptures from five decades, with works drawn from Indiana’s major sculpture series.
The Farnsworth Art Museum presents Robert Indiana and the Star of Hope (June 20, 2009–January 10, 2010), a survey curated by Michael Komanecky and concentrating on the history of Indiana’s home and his own sojourn in the building over the past forty years. A documentary film directed by Dale Schierholt, A Visit to the Star of Hope: Conversations with Robert Indiana, is produced by the museum in conjunction with the exhibition.
Indiana’s 20-foot-high electric EAT, in storage since the New York World’s Fair in 1964, is restored and installed on the museum’s roof during the show. It is lent to the museum and is to be re-installed there each summer thereafter. LOVE Wall travels from Park Avenue in New York to the museum’s garden, where it remains on display until 2018.
The exhibition of ten early works on plywood, Robert Indiana—Rare Works from 1959 on Coenties Slip at Galerie Gmurzynska in Zurich (June 12–September 20), highlights Indiana’s abstract and hard-edge roots before he declared himself to be “a painter of signs.” An extensive interview with Indiana and an essay by the art historian Joachim Pissarro are published in the catalogue.
Robert Indiana: New Perspectives is published by Hatje Cantz in Germany, evidence of the critical reevaluation of Indiana’s career after years of neglect. The monograph includes a preface by Robert Storr and essays by Thomas E. Crow, Jonathan D. Katz, Kalliopi Minioudaki, and Allison Unruh, along with previously unpublished archival documents and photographs.
In a conversation with Marc Salama-Caro, Indiana mentions his desire to see his Vinalhaven wood constructions cast in bronze, and he selects a small group of six for the project: The American Dream, Ash, Eve, KvF, Mars, and USA. Salama-Caro discusses the project with Udo Kittelmann, the director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, who suggests the Kunstgiesserei foundry in St. Gallen, Switzerland, for the project.
Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE at the Whitney Museum of American Art (September 26, 2013–January 5, 2014) is the first U.S. retrospective of Indiana’s work in twenty-five years and the first to be shown in New York City. Curated by Barbara Haskell the exhibition of nearly ninety works draws out the political, social, and personal dimensions of Indiana’s work, presenting a multifaceted portrait of a complex artist deeply engaged with his times. The museum acquires Indiana’s The Electric EAT for its permanent collection.
The Essential Indiana opens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (February 16–May 4), and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, opens two exhibitions, Robert Indiana: The Mother of Us All, and Robert Indiana’s Hartley Elegies, as a complement to the retrospective Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE, which traveled there from the Whitney.
On the occasion of Pope Francis I’s visit to Philadelphia, Indiana’s sculpture AMOR is installed at the top of the grand staircase outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, overlooking the celebration of the papal mass on September 27. The city of Philadelphia later acquires the sculpture, and it is permanently installed in Sister Cities Park, between the museum and the sculpture LOVE in John F. Kennedy Plaza, in December 2016.
Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York, presents Robert Indiana Sign Paintings 1960–65, a series of small early paintings by the artist (September 10–October 31).
A Cor-Ten Imperial LOVE enters the collection of the Nationalgalerie Berlin and is installed at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart on Indiana’s birthday.
The exhibition Robert Indiana: ONE Through ZERO is presented at the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut (May 11–November 30). To commemorate the important role that Philip Johnson played as an early champion of Indiana’s work, the 72-inch-high, Cor-Ten steel sculpture ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) is installed on the grounds facing Johnson’s historic house.
The exhibition Robert Indiana: Works from the Collection of Herbert Lust, comprising twenty-seven paintings and drawings, is mounted at the S|2 Gallery at Sotheby’s, New York (September 8–October 6). In the catalogue for the exhibition there is an essay by Lust about his long friendship with the artist.
On May 19, Indiana dies at home in Vinalhaven, at the age of eighty-nine. His house and estate are left to the Star of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit entity that is created under the terms of his will.
Love Long: Robert Indiana and Asia opens at the Asia Society, Hong Kong (February 7–July 15). This first exhibition of his work in Hong Kong highlights Indiana’s influence on a younger generation of artists in Asia, who are depicting language and text.
Indiana’s first bronze KvF is included in Hello World: Revising a Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin (April 28–August 26).
Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective, curated by Joe Lin-Hill, is presented at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo (June 16–September 23). An exploration of the breadth of Indiana’s output in sculpture, the exhibition consists of sixty-five works: the early herms, the Vinalhaven woods, bronze herms and constructions, and examples of his polychrome sculptures. The exhibition also presents for the first time a number of Indiana’s Love sculptures in marble and The Electric American Dream (EAT/DIE/HUG/ERR).
In conjunction with the show, the Albright-Knox organizes the public installation of Indiana’s Cor-Ten steel ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) in Wilkeson Pointe, a public park near Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. The museum acquires Indiana’s red, green, and blue LOVE for its permanent collection.
Love & Peace: A Robert Indiana Memorial Exhibition opens at the Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo (November 27–December 2).