Robert Indiana: In Memoriam (1928–2018)

By Caitlyn Walter, Interpretive Planning Assistant

If you stop in to the Brown Study Room at DOMA this summer, you’ll notice an image that is likely to be familiar: “LOVE,” in large red letters against a green and blue background, the “O” slightly tilted. In the decades since its conception, this composition has become one of the most widely recognized works of art in the world. It has taken on a life of its own in the form of bumper stickers, magnets, t-shirts, book covers, sculptures, and prints like ours. The artist grew up not far from here, and his influence is more than just the famous image of “LOVE.”

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Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark on September 13, 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. He adopted his pseudonym in 1958 to celebrate his Midwestern origins, a choice consistent with his interest in Americana. His early work introduced sign-like geometric shapes and monosyllabic words that read like shorthand for a biography – “EAT,” “HUG,” “ERR,” and “DIE.”

In 1954, Robert moved to New York City where he met Hard-edge painter Ellsworth Kelly, who became his artistic mentor and intimate friend. Kelly found a studio loft for him in Lower Manhattan and introduced Indiana to other artists, including Agnes Martin, Jack Youngerman, James Rosenquist, Charles Hinman and Lenore Tawney. Indiana’s friendships with Hard-edge and Pop artists of the New York scene influenced his style and furthered his career. In addition to paintings and large-scale sculptures, Indiana worked on stage sets for opera and theatre and an avant-garde film Eat with Andy Warhol.

Between 1964 and 1966, Indiana developed his iconic, imaged word: LOVE. He did not properly copyright his famous image, and it was quickly appropriated for countless unauthorized uses. Disillusioned with the art world and feeling his reputation had been tarnished by plagiarism, Indiana relocated to a remote island off the coast of Maine in 1978. He continued to produce art and enjoy considerable fame in the following decades, culminating in a retrospective, “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE”, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013. Indiana died at his Vinalhaven Island home, the Star of Hope, on May 19, 2018, at the age of 89.

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Festival on the Green 2018

By Emma Hapner, DOMA Intern

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Joan Seig, DOMA Education Program Intern

On Saturday, June 9 the Muncie Symphony Orchestra presented their annual “Festival on the Green” event. Although this year, due to rain, it became the “Festival on the Floor” in the Ball State Field Sports Building, the event was still a huge success with over 400 people attending, including representatives from David Owsley Museum of Art, Cornerstone Center for the Arts, Muncie Civic Theatre, Muncie Public Library, Dazzle Dance, and many other local organizations.

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Emma Hapner, DOMA Education Program Intern

This year’s theme, “Country Music” explored music from countries all over the world including The Star Spangled Banner, Finlandia, and Hungarian Dance #5. The DOMA team had a mask-making activity inspired by African masks we have on display and an art and map matching activity for participants to learn about some of the arts’ respective country of origin. This was a valuable learning experience for people of all ages and led many to express interest in coming to the museum to see the art in person. The kids loved making masks and were interested in how the masks at the museum were made.

20180609_200109-1.jpgEveryone was very creative in their crafting; some even made matching bracelets by threading beads onto pipe cleaners. Even Charlie Cardinal came to the table and let the kids help him make his own mask. After finishing his mask, Charlie led all the kids in the “Children’s March” around the gym.

 

Celebrating Pride Month with Artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg

By Emily Horn, DOMA Intern

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Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, 1980.

Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns are considered by many to be two of the most influential American artists due to their radical blending of materials and methods. The two of them were a crucial figure in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements.

Robert Rauschenberg followed his parents’ wishes and attended the University of Texas to study pharmacology, but was expelled after refusing to dissect a frog. The draft letter that arrived in 1943 saved him from breaking the disappointing news to his parents. Refusing to kill on the battlefield, he was assigned as a medical technician in the Navy Hospital Corps and stationed at a hospital caring for combat survivors in San Diego. While on breaks, he saw oil paintings in person for the first time at the Huntington Art Gallery in California. After the war ended Rauschenberg used the G.I. Bill to pay for art classes at Kansas State University in 1947.

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Robert Rauschenberg and Darryl Pottorf. Philharmonic Center For The Arts1997. David Owsley Museum of Art. 2000.011.000 © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

Jasper Johns knew from an early age he wanted to be an artist. Before moving to New York in the early 1950s, he studied for a brief period at the University of South Carolina. Urged by his professors to study in New York, he moved north and spent one semester at the Parsons School of Design in 1948. However, Parsons was not the ideal fit for Johns, and he left the school, rendering him eligible for the draft. In 1951, he was drafted into the army and spent two years in the service during the Korean War.

Rauschenberg and Johns met at a party in 1953 and after several months of friendship, the two became romantic and artistic partners from 1954 to 1961. In 1955, the two artists had neighboring studio spaces, and became the main audience for each other’s work. Though their styles were initially too different to form a truly coherent movement, Rauschenberg described their artistic relationship as giving “permission to do what we wanted.”

Celebrating Pride Month with Artist Roger Brown

By Emily Horn, DOMA Intern

Roger Brown was a leading member of the Chicago Imagist group, who created bold canvases and sculptural objects that explore America in the postwar era. His work is personal, provocative, and political with subjects that frequently touched upon urban isolation, alienation, sexual interest, natural disasters, and human tragedy.

Throughout his prolific career Brown showed an interest in addressing Chicago’s gay nightlife and the Culture Wars of the 1980s and 90s. Brown was a victim of HIV/AIDS and he made several profound works confronting the pandemic. “Peach Light” by Roger Brown is one of the many works of his that has a reoccurring peach color scheme. This color scheme was meant to resonate, subtly, with the predicament of the gay community. As the AIDS epidemic raged in the early ’80s, owners of gay clubs installed warm red and peach lighting to cover up signs of illness on their guests. In addition to paintings on canvas, Brown made two major Italian glass mosaic murals for public settings, addressing HIV/AIDS. As a gay man who died of complications from AIDS in 1997, Brown sometimes combined personal narratives with depictions of social crises.

In October 2004, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues inducted Roger Brown into the world’s only known municipally-sponsored hall of fame that honors members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

Several of Brown’s works reside in the DOMA collection, including one currently on view: “Burners, Burglars, and Beaters” which depicts the famous Los Angeles riots. In 1992, Los Angeles County, California was taken over by racially charged riots after outraged residents found out four police officers were found not guilty after severely beating Rodney King. Painted during the same year the riots broke out, Brown depicts the robberies, beatings and fires that happened in Los Angeles.

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Roger Brown. Burners, Burglars, and Beaters, 1992. Oil on canvas. 48 x 72 inches. David Owsley Museum of Art. 2005.012.000. © The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brown family

Visit the David Owsley Museum of Art today to see “Burners, Burglars, and Beaters,” located upstairs in the Ball Brothers Foundation Gallery.

 

Celebrating Pride Month with Artist David Hockney

By Emily Horn, DOMA Intern

David Hockney was way ahead of today’s ever-present selfies creating a multitude of self portraits. We are given access to Hockney’s world, from his early work, where he cheekily addressed his difficulties grappling with the Formalist art movement, to his most famous swimming pool and male nude paintings, to his later, more technology-driven productions where Hockney has fully adopted iPad drawings.

 

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Hockney in the 1960s was making work on subjects he knew and cared about. Being a young gay man when homosexuality was illegal in England he was troubled finding a proper way to express himself. He wanted to promote homosexuality so Hockney painted self-portraits. He was gay and painted himself, effectively creating gay art, but flying under the radar.

In the ’60s, Hockney moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art, and began to quietly explore his sexual orientation in his work. He came out at age 23, seven years before homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain.

“When you said you were gay in the 1960s, people said it was illegal,” Hockney recalls. “Well, I said ‘I lived in Bohemia, and Bohemia is a tolerant place.’”

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David Hockney
British, born 1937
Parade, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 1981
Screenprint on wove paper, 82 x 43 ¾ in.
Gift of David T. Owsley, 2013.019.067; © David Hockney

Hockney was an artist who defied generally-accepted social structures and led his life as an openly gay man in a world that systematically oppressed and silenced those who did not conform.

One of Hockney’s works (not on display) resides in the DOMA collection: “Parade (for the Metropolitan Opera, New York).” In 1980, Hockney was invited to design the stage sets at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for Erik Satie’s “Parade.” The ballet introduces the audience to the world of circuses and street fair performances which is why Hockney created the poster for “Parade” with bold colors and simple forms portraying circus images.