This work will be included in the forthcoming Robert Indiana Catalogue raisonné being prepared by Simon Salama-Caro.
Born in 1928 in Newcastle Indiana, Robert Clarke, who later changed his name to Robert Indiana, is a virtuoso of numbers and words. His highly graphic images often celebrate defining moments in American history, culture, and current events while also religiously documenting his own life. Following his desire to grab hold of the viewer immediately, Indiana has concentrated on a formal concern that he shared with his friend Ellsworth Kelly, whose friendship developed during the mid 1950s. Having just returned from Paris, Kelly was painting in a reductive, hard-edged style based on his observations of nature. Under the influence of Kelly, Indiana began to engage in this formal approach, which can be seen in his mature paintings.
Robert Indiana was a leading member of the Coenties Slip group, a group which includes Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Youngerman. Sharing with his peers a commitment to abstraction and the study of classical inscription, Indiana's fascination with numbers and letters has remained a constant in his oeuvre. "His banner-like insignias, verbal commands and number compositions have become as much a trademark as Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans or Roy Lichtenstein's Benday Dots" (R. Pincus Witten, Indiana's Charter, Robert Indiana: Letters, Works and Numbers, exh. cat., C&M Arts, 2004). Using his trademark die-cut stencils, found in his loft in the Bowery, Indiana's myth or story is one of rebirth and reinvention.
Adopting its title from his hometwon, New Castle successfully combines this formal hard-edge approach and use of bright colors to explore his own personal story. An example of his landscape work, New Castle strikes the eye immediately with its luminous palette of blue and orange set against the muted earth tones. Evocative of the blue sky above the cornfields of Indiana, the artist recalls this painting as a signifier of a new beginning.
With precise execution and an "eye for picture surface" (C. Greenberg quated in S. Ryan, Love and the American Dream: The Art of Robert Indiana, exh. cat., Portland Museum of Art, p. 98) Indiana combines his own personal language or code with his unique trademark style. New Castle is a wonderful example which highlights these qualities of his work.