Robert Indiana: The Love of Painting

The years between Pollock’s quasi–suicide (1956) and the rise of the Pop phenomenon (1962) mark a cultural shift on the North American artistic scene. This short and intense period is essentially marked by antagonisms, tensions, and contradictions. There is a profound sense of anxiety at this moment – the apparent easy and transparent vocabulary of abstraction that took over the New York art scene after WWII belies a much deeper conundrum of conflicted artistic possibilities. And this creative confusion, in turn, reflects a conflicted world steeply engaged in the Cold War, divided between the consumerist euphoria of the Post–War economic boom and the abiding threat of a worldwide conflagration. The art world was similarly going through a great divide. 1959 presented a culminating point for these clashing vectorial forces. In many ways, Indiana’s art – and the monumental series displayed at Gmurzynska – embody these rich and powerful currents. Two opposite directions can simply be summed up: a drive to formalize and solidify the language of abstraction proper was hitting head–on against a more open, liberal–minded, experimental vision of art. The first direction aimed at cultivating abstraction for its own sake and defending it against the polluting and dangerous impact of ‘expression,’ or what one could call today ‘user–friendly’ interests. The other side saw that abstraction was one of several possible modes of expressing the concerns of the time, and that cultivating abstraction for its own sake was not a viable option.

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