How lucky was I for this one? Recently, I was in Orchard Park, NY, to watch my oldest grandson play in a baseball tournament. While I love watching Aiden and his friends on the field, it's also refreshing to have a little break from all that activity in the hot sun. Fortunately for me, the Cougars didn't play until afternoon on Saturday, so I had the morning free to explore on my own. A quick trip through the entertainment guide provided in my hotel room landed me at Buffalo's Albright Knox Gallery and this fabulous exhibit!
Usually I don't bother with the audio guides when I visit an art museum because I just like to view the art and read the labels at my leisure. However, the woman at the reception desk assured me that the audio guide would provide a fascinating backstory to the artwork, so I let her hold my precious Ohio driver's license hostage and took the audio guide. Good decision! I learned so much more than I would have just reading along.
My favorite room in the exhibit also proved to be the most difficult to photograph. Nine of Indiana's "LOVE" sculptures, each from a different type of marble formed a circle facing his iconic "HUG...EAT...DIE...ERR" mantra, which was lit up with hundreds of bright bulbs that flashed in a variety of different patterns. The final piece in the room, a gleaming metal rendition of "Ahava", the Hebrew version of these famous LOVE sculptures, stood alone in the middle of the circle. The room was so large, the lighting was constantly changing, and other museum visitors (and a very diligent museum guard!) were constantly in my viewfinder. Not a single one of my panoramic photos did this room justice, so the one above is the best one I have to share.
Having the audio guide was truly a gift since understanding the story behind Indiana's work added so much to the experience. The repetition of the words "eat", "die", "hug", and "err" are references to the artist's mother and the phrases he remembered her saying. Some works are direct references to literature, such as Moby Dick, and others, such as the one below, connect to the work of other artists. Before viewing this exhibit, I had no idea that Robert Indiana had created pieces inspired by the work of Charles Demuth. I was a bit startled when I walked into one of the exhibit rooms to find myself in front of the painting pictured below!
Demuth's painting "I Saw the Figure Five in Gold" was inspired by a William
Carlos Williams poem "The Great Figure", which describes the sight and sound of a fire engine racing to the scene of a fire. This may be the first time since my retirement from teaching art that I wished I had a classroom to return to in the fall! I had been using the poem to inspire art by my fourth graders, which we then compared to my large print of Charles Demuth's painting. Robert Indiana's work was also part of my fourth grade curriculum, so what a connection this would have made!
Two hours later, it was back to the Orchard Park Little League Fields to cheer for my favorite 8U Cougar and his teammates. For the record, the Cougars ended their tournament run that weekend with a second place trophy!
If you happen to be near Buffalo, NY, or have plans to visit the area soon, the Robert Indiana exhibit will be on display at the Albright Knox Gallery until September 23, 2018. I highly recommend a visit!