“The situation in the South affects everyone and I can’t wake up in the morning and see a newspaper or listen to a radio without becoming perhaps ill at the news that comes through. I am sensitive to this and it’s part of my painting.” — Robert Indiana, 1966
Louisiana is one of a series of four paintings which comment on the civil rights struggles and violence taking place in the American South in the mid-sixties. Cartographic portrayals of strongholds of racism, they are examples of Indiana’s early political work. Each of the four canvases contains a series of concentric circles, resembling a target, at the center of which is a flesh colored map of a state (Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama). The color, with its bodily connotations, echoes the unifying phrase found in the outer two rings of each work, “Just as in the anatomy of man every nation must have its hind part.”
In Louisiana Indiana targets Bogalusa, a city dubbed “Klantown, USA” due to its status in the mid-sixties as the city with the highest per capita number of members of the Ku Klux Klan, and which the artist ironically describes as “The Fair City.” In June 1965 the town’s only Black policemen were ambushed, resulting in the death of one officer, and violence against demonstrators in the ensuing protests. The civil rights campaign in the city was led by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), to which Indiana donated several paintings.