Putting the ‘Indiana’ in Indianapolis Museum of Art

BRENNA MANLEY | Staff Reporter

Robert Indiana’s artwork is being put on display after waiting eight months for the largest gallery at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The print retrospective exhibition will be on display from Feb. 16, through May 4, showcasing Indiana’s artistry to his fellow Hoosiers in Indianapolis for the first time since his last exhibition in the city in 1978.

Indiana, formerly Robert Clark until 1958, now resides in Maine. This is where the exhibition’s curator, Martin Krause, traveled and completed extensive interviews with Indiana to understand the motives behind his artwork.

“We decided that it’s probably a good time to decode that information for people, and it’s not something that you could look in his work and could really understand what the personal angle is,” Krause said.

Indiana became popular during the first generation of 1960s pop artists, including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Krause said.

Indiana’s claim to fame began when The Museum of Modern Art asked him to design its Christmas card in 1965, according to www.robertindiana.com.

Indiana submitted his iconic LOVE work and success followed soon after. The IMA first purchased the local’s LOVE painting in 1967 and later bought the sculpture.


“We’ve been collecting his work ever since, and he’s had a number of exhibitions here, so that makes sense since he sort of is from Indianapolis,” Krause said.

Krause, with the help of John Wilmerding, a retired professor from Princeton University and former curator of The National Gallery of Art in  Washington, suggested the project four years ago.

“We’ve never shown his fine art prints before—we’ve shown his sculpture and his paintings—but never his prints,” Krause said. “That seemed like a reasonable thing to exhibit.”

Krause said the 53-print exhibit consists of about 20 pieces that belong to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the remainder are borrowed from Indiana.

For each year of the 1960s, Indiana created an auto portrait, much like a self-portrait. However, instead of facial features, he used symbols, colors and words that were important to him at a specific time in his life.

Audience members will be invited to create an auto portrait of their own during the exhibition.

“Each visitor will be able to do the same thing using Robert Indiana’s basic template, and then they can add their own colors, words and numbers that are significant to them and electronically create their own auto portrait,” Krause said.

The exhibit also features “Decode Yourself” where visitors can individualize numbers, colors and words to create their own symbolic vocabulary much like Indiana used in his work.

Audio guides, iPads containing interviews with the artist and other technological supplementary information create an overall experience for guests.

“That’s what the museum does— it’s part of our mission to bring artwork to the city of Indianapolis, new things to see and new things to understand, so that’s just the cost of doing business for us,” Krause said.

Krause said he expects the exhibit to be popular, being it has been more than 40 years since their last retrospect exhibition of Indiana.

“It’s visually very attractive and dynamic and bold,” Krause said. “I think that it will be quite a splendid show.”