Indiana on 'Today'

By Rufus Foshee | Dec 31, 2009
Photo by: Joan Foshee Robert Indiana all relaxed and smiling at one of his favorite eating haunts in 2008.

Tune in to the "Today Show" on New Year's Day, fill up your cup, your mug or your glass, whatever you prefer, and watch the Indiana Show.

We used to be neighbors on New York's Spring Street, he at 2 and me at 5 and Louise Nevelson down at 29. I had not seen nor heard from Robert Indiana since I had moved to Camden in 1971. Then one Sunday morning in 1999, the phone rang and it was Bob. He had read my commentary on his Portland Museum Show and had called to say it was the best thing anyone had ever written about him. The irony was that a friend had rushed it to him, thinking that he would hate it.

Even though he, unlike friend and former neighbor Louise Nevelson, deserted New York's Spring Street for Vinalhaven, the cameras seem to find Robert Indiana. I think he understands all too well what the late Katherine Anne Porter meant when she said that we as artists want glory, not criticism.

Whenever I write about his work, and I have never said anything that was not praise, somehow it is never good enough. My last commentary on him was in two parts; he liked one but not the other. He said that I am the severest critic.

I think it a valid question to ask: Could any other American artist have deserted New York, the haven for artists, for Vinalhaven, more than 30 years ago, and wound up on "Today" on New Year's Day?

There is no answer for that question now.

It has been 48 years since Indiana had his first New York showing, a two man one with Peter Forakis at David Anderson's Gallery, in 1961, when the artist was 34. Now 82, there is no indication that things are nearly over. With his exhibition held over by popular demand at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland and a "Today Show" profile coming on New Year's Day, does this indicate that a jump from Manhattan to Vinalhaven means fame? Of course not. But it does mean the artist has been working for decades.

Though associated with pop art over decades, Indiana's work is too formal to be classed as such. Early on, pop art defined him in that what you saw was what you got -- nothing more.

Indiana's 1999 Portland Museum exhibition was called, and effectively so, "Love and the American Dream." The reality is that love, or what is mistaken for love, is the American dream, whatever nightmares such dreaming may lead to. Anyone closely observing his current, held over, exhibition at the Farnsworth may easily see the nightmare aspects in Indiana's "Afghanistan," as well as in other works.

Many artists who stayed on working in New York managed to destroy themselves rather early on. Franz Kline, only half a generation older than Indiana, gave way to alcohol at 52, and Jackson Pollock managed to kill himself at 44. Yet Indiana flourishes at 82 on Vinalhaven. There just has to be more to such survival than fresh air or being surrounded by water.

But then Nevelson managed to get to 88 while staying put on New York's Spring Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




























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