Marty Krause is the IMA's Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs and of The Essential Robert Indiana.
Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.
To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.
First up is Marty Krause, the IMA’s Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs and of The Essential Robert Indiana.
Since the word “Autoportrait” is Robert Indiana’s invention as are the symbolic self-portraits, which the term describes, I am dedicating my Autoportrait to my extended involvement with the artist leading up to the recent opening of The Essential Robert Indiana, which I curated.
The 0 stands for 2010. On January 22 of that year, then-director Max Anderson and I met with John Wilmerding of Princeton at the historic Century Club in New York (Max and John are both members) to discuss the possibility of mounting a long-overdue retrospective of Robert Indiana’s screenprints. Over lunch we laid the groundwork for what became The Essential Robert Indiana just over four years later.
BOB is Robert Indiana. Over the past four years we have become quite friendly, and I am “Marty” to him and he is “Bob” to me. Actually, almost everyone calls him “Bob.”
ODDFELLOW refers to the former Odd Fellows Lodge on the island of Vinalhaven 12 miles off the coast of Maine, which intrigued Robert Indiana on his first visit to the island in 1969 and which became his permanent studio and home nine years later. In spite of the name, the fraternal order of Odd Fellows were not eccentric, though their 19th-century Vinalhaven lodge qualifies. Indiana has preserved the building and uses “oddfellow” as part of his email address. (He doesn’t answer emails, if you were wondering.)
FERRY is the Maine State Ferry, the only public transportation to Vinalhaven. Getting there from Indianapolis is a bit of a Planes, Trains and Automobiles type ordeal. You fly to Portland, Maine, (indirectly, of course), drive 80 miles up the coast to Rockland, make an hour-long transit by ferry from there to the island and walk a mile from the dock to Indiana’s studio.
53 equals the number of prints in the exhibition. The IMA supplied about a third; Robert Indiana another third, with the remainder coming from the Morgan Art Foundation, a long-time sponsor of Indiana and his work.
Green, blue and white are the colors Indiana associates with Maine and I can attest that this is the palette of Vinalhaven. The green suggests its covering of fir trees, the blue of its surrounding Penobscot Bay, and the white of the snow, which Indiana reports that Maine, like here, has received more than its fair share this winter. I’ll take him at his word, since my four treks there have been in the pleasantness of summer.