Born Robert Clark, Robert Indiana was born in 1928 in New Castle, Indiana, and was adopted as an infant, moving around frequently with his family. His artistic talent was noticed from an early age, which encouraged him to pursue an artistic career. After graduating, he spent three years in the U.S. Air Force and then studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting in Maine, and the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. In 1956, Indiana met Ellsworth Kelly, and upon his recommendation took up residence in Coenties Slip in New York. There he joined a community of artists that would come to include Kelly, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist. Quickly gaining fame for his assemblages, Indiana was featured in influential New York shows at the Museum of Modern Art. 1966 marked a turning point in Indiana’s career with the success of his LOVE image, a now-iconic symbol.
As one of the most important figures in American art, Indiana played a central role in the development of assemblage art, hard-edge painting, and Pop art. A self-proclaimed “American painter of signs,” Indiana has created a highly original body of work that explores American identity, personal history, and the power of abstraction and language, establishing an important legacy that resonates in the work of many contemporary artists.
He died on May 19, 2018 in Vinalhaven, ME. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., among others.