On October 7, 1989, Robert Indiana began the Hartley Elegies: a series of eighteen paintings in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the German soldier Karl von Freyburg’s death and his relationship with the American modernist painter Marsden Hartley. Three of these are currently on view as part of Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective alongside two related sculptures, KvF and Mars.
Hartley himself memorialized von Freyburg’s loss in an extensive series of paintings created between 1913 and 1915 (one of which is now in the Albright-Knox's collection), and Indiana borrowed the red and white circles, black triangles, stars, and banners that are present throughout the Elegies from Hartley’s earlier series. He also invested the series with affinities he shared with Hartley as a quintessentially American artist as well as with his own autobiographical associations.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Indiana decided to pair each of his major paintings with a related sculpture: a goal he irregularly realized over the course of his career. To complement the Hartley Elegies series, he created two massive sculptures: KvF, named after von Freyburg, and Mars, which is probably both an abbreviated reference to Marsden Hartley and allusion to the Roman god of war and agriculture.
Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective is on view through September 23, 2018.