WOW! – Work of the Week 6/29/15

Robert Indiana, Zinnia, from Garden of Love

Robert Indiana          Zinnia, from Garden of Love          1982

Robert Indiana Zinnia, from Garden of Love 1982

Robert Indiana
Zinnia, from Garden of Love
26 5/8 x 26 5/8 in.
Edition of 100
This piece is signed, titled, dated and numbered in pencil.

About This Work:

Robert Indiana is most recognized for his very pop art LOVE works. 

Zinnia is one of 6 works from Robert Indiana’s Garden of Love portfolio. Each of the six works is inspired and named after a flower.

About Robert Indiana:

“There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS.”   This sums up Robert Indiana’s position in the world of contemporary art. He has taken the everyday symbols of roadside America and made them into brilliantly colored geometric pop art. In his work he has been an ironic commentator on the American scene. Both his graphics and his paintings have made cultural statements on life and, during the rebellious 1960s, pointed political statements as well.

Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, in 1928, he adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career.

What Indiana calls “sculptural poems”,  his work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like “EAT”, “HUG”, and “LOVE”.

Rather than using symbols from the mass media, Indiana makes images of words that focus on identity.  Using them in bold block letters in vivid colors, he has enticed his viewers to look at the commonplace from a new perspective.

Despite his unique methods, several important aspects of Indiana’s works clearly identify him as a Pop artist. He manages to give a direct and honest description of American culture while appearing cool and uninvolved, much as Warhol did by simply reproducing images of superstars and soup can labels.  In his most famous series Indiana took familiar words, usually three to five letters long, and repeated, reflected, or divided them. The simple familiarity of these words and the flattened manner in which Indiana presents them demonstrates the Pop art accessibility of content; viewers need not read much past the surface.

However, what distinguishes Indiana from his “Pop” colleagues is the depth of his personal engagement with his subject matter.  Indiana’s works all speak to the vital forces that have shaped American culture in the late half of the 20th century: personal and national identity, political and social upheaval and stasis, the rise of consumer culture, and the pressures of history.  He uses his art it to both celebrate and criticize the national way of life.

By presenting familiar words in new ways, he asks the viewer to reevaluate assumptions and emotions associated with those words.  For example, no longer does the word “eat” simply describe an act, but a whole set of social conditions and practices associated with that act. Viewers might see the intimacy of eating and its central role in family, community, and romantic rituals or they might understand the negative aspects of eating in a society where high-fat, sugar-rich diets are the norm.

The same is true of Indiana’s most famous piece, his LOVE sculpture of 1966. By using block letters in bold, bright colors and dividing the word in half, he presents “love” in an unfamiliar way, thus asking the viewer what this familiar term means personally. His preoccupation with LOVE became an exploration of complicated relationships and his spiritual nature.

WOW! – Work of the Week 4/13/15

Andy Warhol, Flowers FS II.68

Andy Warhol       Flowers FS II.68        1970

Andy Warhol Flowers FS II.68 1970

Andy Warhol
Flowers FS II.68
Screenprint on paper
36 x 36 in.
This piece is signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso.

About This Work:

Warhol’s Flowers paintings were initially inspired by a photograph of several hibiscus flowers taken by Patricia Caulfield, the then executive editor of Modern Photography magazine. Her article focused on how new, available photographic technology could be used to manipulate color. Warhol appropriated her image of the flowers, cropped, copied, enhanced the contrast and eventually settled on a square format, where the artworks could be viewed from any orientation. Flowers reveal Warhol’s vibrant color palate and bold graphic sensibilities.

About Andy Warhol:

He was one of the most enigmatic figures in American art. His work became the definitive expression of a culture obsessed with images. He was surrounded by a coterie of beautiful bohemians with names like Viva, Candy Darling, and Ultra Violet. He held endless drug- and sex-filled parties, through which he never stopped working. He single-handedly confounded the distinctions between high and low art. His films are pivotal in the formation of contemporary experimental art and pornography. He spent the final years of his life walking around the posh neighborhoods of New York with a plastic bag full of hundred dollar bills, buying jewelry and knick knacks. His name was Andy Warhol, and he changed the nature of art forever.

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh. He received his B.F.A. from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, in 1949. That same year, he moved to New York, where he soon became successful as a commercial artist and illustrator. During the 1950s, Warhol’s drawings were published in Glamour and other magazines and displayed in department stores. He became known for his illustrations of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, the Hugo Gallery in New York presented a show of Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings.

During this time, Warhol had also been working on a series of pictures separate from the advertisements and illustrations. It was this work that he considered his serious artistic endeavor. Though the paintings retained much of the style of popular advertising, their motivation was just the opposite. The most famous of the paintings of this time are the thirty-two paintings of Campbell soup cans. With these paintings, and other work that reproduced Coca-Cola bottles, Superman comics, and other immediately recognizable popular images, Warhol was mirroring society’s obsessions. Where the main concern of advertising was to slip into the unconscious and unrecognizably evoke a feeling of desire, Warhol’s work was meant to make the viewer actually stop and look at the images that had become invisible in their familiarity. These ideas were similarly being dealt with by artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg — and came to be known as Pop Art.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, Warhol produced work at an amazing rate. He embraced a mode of production similar to that taken on by the industries he was mimicking, and referred to his studio as “The Factory.” The Factory was not only a production center for Warhol’s paintings, silk-screens, and sculptures, but also a central point for the fast-paced high life of New York in the ’60s. Warhol’s obsession with fame, youth, and personality drew the most wild and interesting people to The Factory throughout the years. Among the regulars were Mick Jagger, Martha Graham, Lou Reed, and Truman Capote. For many, Warhol was a work of art in himself, reflecting back the basic desires of an consumerist American culture. He saw fame as the pinnacle of modern consumerism and reveled in it the way artists a hundred years before reveled in the western landscape. His oft-repeated statement that “every person will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” was an incredible insight into the growing commodification of everyday life.

By the mid-’60s, Warhol had become one of the most famous artists, in the world. He continued, however, to baffle the critics with his aggressively groundbreaking work. His paintings were primarily concerned with getting the viewer to look at something for longer than they otherwise would.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Warhol produced hundreds of portraits, mostly in silk screen. His images of Liza Minnelli, Jimmy Carter, Albert Einstein, Elizabeth Taylor, and Philip Johnson express a more subtle and expressionistic side of his work.

Following routine gall bladder surgery, Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987. After his burial in Pittsburgh, his friends and associates organized a memorial mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York that was attended by more than 2,000 people.