Robert Indiana; Peace Paintings by Robert Indiana. Illustrated, 15 pages, paperback. Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2004.
Indiana returned to the public eye in 2003 when he had his first New York solo exhibitions in more than a decade and his monumental number sculptures were installed outdoors on Park Avenue. When looked at fresh, his work revealed itself to be “Pop in its graphic appearance but un-Pop in its emotional density and self-referentiality,” wrote critic Barbara MacAdam, who noted the pointed political commentary to be discovered in some of the recent paintings. “While America has set the parameters of his work,” she concluded, “Indiana has enriched it with a world of literary and art-historical experience.”
This complexity, as well as the satirical bite, had been present in Indiana’s work from the first. The artist’s career was launched in 1962, when The Museum of Modern Art purchased his startling painting The American Dream #1. As the poet and critic Nathan Kernan has written, the work was “a kind of overture, introducing many of the themes and images that will reappear in later paintings: numbers, stars, words, circles, polygons, and diagonal ‘hazard’ bars.” The meaning, according to the artist, was personal in origin and national in import. “I was born in 1928,” he told the critic Francine Koslow Miller. “The crash occurred in 1929….We moved twenty-one times before I was seventeen. In my first painting of The American Dream, quite simply, the American dream was broken. It was no longer in effect for us and for lots of other people…”
Indiana’s continuing concern with public events is in evidence in his new series of 20 Peace Paintings. Painted in 2003 in response to the Iraq war, the diamond-format works are boldly colored designs executed in the artist’s characteristic hard-edge, geometric style. The paintings feature gnomic slogans about peace, painted within a circular band crossed by a “hazard” bar, and have at their core the forked peace sign—a symbol that Indiana began incorporating into his paintings with his now-classic 1961 Melville Triptych.
Click here to learn more about this exhibition.