Ahab is a painted bronze rendition of Indiana’s herm Ahab (1960–62). Created as a companion to the painting The Melville Triptych (1962), Ahab represents a central character in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick. The herm has an anthropomorphic quality; the placement of the wheels, spinning futilely, like Ahab’s quest, resemble arms, and the two white circles resemble eyes, staring blankly, looking “fixed and fearless,” like Ahab himself. The starkness of the black and white color scheme calls to mind the opposition of Ahab to the white whale, symbolic of the moral oppositions that are central to human existence.
The bronze Ahab was first exhibited in Robert Indiana: Early Sculpture, 1960–1962, at the Salama-Caro Gallery in London. Indiana considered bronze, along with marble, to be one of the noble materials in the tradition of European sculpture. Because of this, as well as the longevity of the material, the artist had long wanted to turn his herms into bronze. This dream was realized in 1991, when bronze versions of eight of Indiana’s early herms were created.