Tampa Museum of Art

Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective

Presented at the Tampa Museum of Art October 24, 2018 – March 17, 2019

This exhibition is organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

On the occasion of the American artist Robert Indiana’s ninetieth birthday and in recognition of his broad and enduring achievement in sculptural media, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will mount Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective in Summer 2018. The exhibition will then travel to Tampa, the only other venue.

Having gained international prominence in the early 1960s, Indiana (born Robert Clark in 1928) has created some of the world’s most immediately recognizable works of art. Filled with intensely personal combinations of universal symbols—words and numbers, stars and wheels—his sculptures, paintings, drawings, and prints are most readily associated with the Pop art movement. Indiana’s work in sculpture offers a unique opportunity to consider the multiple paradoxes inherent in his practice of creating objects of significance and permanence from everyday impressions and materials.

Many of Indiana’s sculpture have never been publicly exhibited in the United States, and some of the most extraordinary examples of his career-defining LOVE sculpture, one of the twentieth century’s most iconic works of art, have never been shown anywhere. Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective offers a thorough reassessment of the artist’s work in sculpture, from his earliest assemblages of the late 1950s to his most recent series of remarkable painted bronzes.

Any consideration of Indiana’s work necessarily begins with LOVE, which the artist first conceived in two-dimensional form in 1964. LOVE would soon come to overshadow the entirety of Indiana’s oeuvre, obscuring the breadth and complexity of his production across diverse media. Indiana’s 2013 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Beyond LOVE—astonishingly, the artist’s first solo exhibition in a New York museum—brought his work back to public attention and critical scrutiny after decades of neglect, but left for others an in-depth exploration of his more than half-century engagement with sculpture. The Albright-Knox exhibition argues for the primacy of sculpture in the artist’s creative output.

Like many artists of his era, Indiana has returned throughout his career to the same or similar motifs, exploring their resonance and signification through different media. Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective focuses on these relationships. The wooden “herms” of the late 1950s and early 1960s—totemic structures with assemblage elements in iron, steel, and other materials—were occasionally conceived with companion paintings. The Albright-Knox’s rare presentation of the herms and their paintings together facilitates a more thorough understanding of their subject matter and an exploration of Indiana’s personal iconography across the decades.

The herm form has endured in Indiana’s imagination as a central focus of his creative output: he created new and rarely seen herms in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. In the 1980s, he also selected some of these early sculptures for an initial series of little-known painted bronze castings, opening a discussion of the meaning of different materials in the artist’s practice that endures to the present day. His most recent series of painted bronzes— among the most complicated bronze sculptures fabricated in the contemporary era—are based upon the later herms, prompting analysis of the nature of replication and originality in contemporary artistic practice. The full suite of these recent painted bronzes will be on view for the first time in the exhibition.