Robert Indiana, ‘Für K. v. K.’, 1990, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Best known for his iconic LOVE series, Robert Indiana began in 1963 to create a group of paintings that responded to early American modernist non-mimetic portraits. In The Demuth American Dream No. 5 (1963), Indiana pays homage to Charles Demuth and his symbolic portrait of poet William Carlos Williams, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928). In the 1990s Indiana revisited this type of coded portrait in works like Für K. v. F., a direct response to Marsden Hartley’s German officer portraits. Through letter forms, military accoutrements, and flag imagery, the works in that series reference Karl von Freyburg, the object of Hartley’s unrequited affections. By including “HARTLEY” at the bottom of his own work, Indiana makes explicit the connection between Hartley and Freyburg. Implicitly, he alludes to his own sexual orientation. Through his many layers of encoding likeness, desire, and inspiration, Indiana engages a powerful dynamic of concealment and revelation, memory and identity that incorporates public emblems and shared experience and renders them deeply personal. Indiana’s own graphic influence can be seen in the button “RIOT,” one of the pins that L.J. Roberts has recreated in embroidery, on view nearby.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, anonymous gift and museum purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund

About Robert Indiana

One of the central figures of the Pop Art movement, Robert Indiana takes his inspiration from commercial signs, claiming: “There are more signs than trees in America. There are more signs than leaves. So I think of myself as a painter of American landscape.” In his paintings, sculptures, and prints, he mimics and re-arranges the words and numbers of a myriad of signs, including the Phillips 66 gas station logo and the “Yield” traffic sign. He is most famous for his “Love” paintings and sculptures, first produced in the 1960s. Creating a block out of the word—with the “L” and the “O” set atop the “V” and the “E”—Indiana has effectively inserted his own sign into the mix. His “LOVE” painting was reproduced on a postage stamp in 1973; his “LOVE” sculptures are installed in public spaces worldwide.

American, b. 1928, New Castle, Indiana, based in New York, New York