APOGEE, 1970

oil on canvas
60 x 50 in.
(152.4 x 127 cm)

Robert Indiana: Well, I think something that has come fairly recently and which I presume you might call a new theory about language and about language in relation to man, is that language seems to be more of an inherited process than once was thought, that it is simply not a learned thing but is something which the human species is peculiarly not only adapted to but inclined toward and that there’s some very special mechanical thing within our being which makes language part and parcel of being a man. I really think my preoccupation and my fascination with words and language is geared to that thought that it, that language is a terribly important part of our being humans and that its having been so divided and compartmentalized by people who have split up human intelligence has obscured the vital issue. And I think I would like in my work to undo that damage and to stress that aspect: [the feeling of] so many of my peers—other artist who really have absolutely no toleration for my work whatsoever—that the word is almost a nasty, dangerous, unlikely baggage for an artist. I find that overreaction not only bizarre but distasteful and I suppose it’s been my endeavor to reverse that attitude. It’s been a little bit of a private goal in my life, which goes a little bit beyond just being an artist. The world is so glutted with images and art and schools of painting and art history that it seems an appropriate time to approach the subject form a different aspect—that’s all.

Donald B. Goodall: I see this, then, as an attempt to return to some kind of unity in expressive mechanisms. Does the thought begin to clarify itself as the image is shaped and the sounds of the word reverberate in your mind, or do you start in with a pre-fixed idea and then actualize it from there?

Indiana: Well, the painting itself, the canvas and the paint and the stretchers and all that —by the time I’m ready to paint a painting it is pre-fixed. I have it all pretty well worked out in my mind. On some rare occasions I’ve made changes while painting, and this mainly occurs with color choices. I have changed colors on the canvas itself. It’s desirable from just a technical standpoint not to be doing that if one is going to present the perfect kind of surface that I like to deal with. But from the standpoint of how the paintings come about: in the first place, I just suppose that we operate on a common cultural base. I’m always intrigued to study and kind of know the reaction of people to my work, say, for instance, those who don’t know English, and whether or not [that is] a disadvantage to appreciating my work. I’ve always felt that since I am a painter and since I’ve been trained as a painter and have a general artistic background, my paintings can stand on their plastic values as objects which are intriguing enough for their own intrinsic color play, design, whatever; that the message which I think is probably the easiest way to describe it, isn’t absolutely necessary for appreciation of the painting itself. For me, the word—although it’s central as far as I’m concerned—can simply be a reinforcement and isn’t absolutely necessary for the viewer. After all, most of the people of the world don’t speak English, and it would be a crippling kind of position to be in if it were that important.

 

Excerpt from Donald B. Goodall. Interviews with Robert Indiana. 1976–77.

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UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
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UNTITLED

1945
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1945
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TECH

1945
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500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
MENE MENE TEKEL

MENE MENE TEKEL

1955–56/1989
HUB

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1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959–60
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SUN AND MOON

1959–60
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1959–62/1972
TWO GOLDEN ORBS

TWO GOLDEN ORBS

1959/2001
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1960
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1960
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1960
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1960
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1960
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1960
M

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1960
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1960
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WALL OF CHINA

1960–61
ELECTI

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1960–61
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MARINE WORKS

1960–62
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1960–62
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1960–62
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JEANNE D'ARC

1960–62
BAR

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1960–62
ZIG

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1960–62
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1960–62
AHAB

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1960–62
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1960–62
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1960–62
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1960–62
HOLE

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1960–62
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1961
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BALLYHOO

1961
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1961
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1961
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
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1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
GEM

GEM

1962/1984
THE X-5

THE X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963–64
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963–64
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963/1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
THE ELECTRIC EAT

THE ELECTRIC EAT

1964–2007
ONE

ONE

1964–65
TWO

TWO

1964–65
THREE

THREE

1964–65
FOUR

FOUR

1964–65
FIVE

FIVE

1964–65
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SEVEN

1964–65
MY MOTHER

MY MOTHER

1964/1998
MY FATHER

MY FATHER

1964/1998
DILLINGER

DILLINGER

1964/1998
CALL ME ISHMAEL

CALL ME ISHMAEL

1964/1998
CALL ME INDIANA

CALL ME INDIANA

1964/1998
BOB'S COLUMN

BOB'S COLUMN

1964/1998
SIX

SIX

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
ALABAMA

ALABAMA

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
FLORIDA

FLORIDA

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966–1999
THE ELECTRIC LOVE

THE ELECTRIC LOVE

1966–2000
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966–2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
ART

ART

1970
ART

ART

1972–2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
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1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998–2006
COMET

COMET

2000
ÀI

ÀI

2002
ÀI

ÀI

2002