The Confederacy: Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Florida
Oil on Canvas
Pop artist Robert Indiana found it difficult to stomach the racial violence and inequality occurring in the South during the 1960s, and stated that he could not wake up in the morning and turn on the radio without be appalled by what was happening. Indiana produced the Confederacy Series, 1965-66, to make a bold and explicit statement against the social injustice occurring in America. Introduced in the same show as his famed Love Series, The Confederacy Series depicts a group of states that seceded from the union during the Civil War, connecting them to the larger issue of civil rights. The paintings’ bright colors make them appear like cheerful advertisements. However, Indiana used conventions from the advertising world to deliver a harsh and strongly worded message about social justice.
Through the Confederacy Series, Indiana offered a strong indictment against the darker parts of American life, criticizing the racial bigotry of not only the Southern States but also of the country that had allowed it to take place. This criticism can be seen in each painting, which contain in capitalized stenciled letters Indiana’s own message of “JUST AS IN THE ANATOMY OF MAN, EVERY NATION MUST HAVE ITS HIND PART.” The paintings provide a didactic message, championing the freedoms and rights of individuals, while also giving an atlas of America’s history of racial violence from a contemporary viewpoint.
Each sate is marked at its center with a bull’s eye target. By using an emphatic and reductive sign idiom, Indiana is able to deliver a direct and simple statement of shame and contempt. The capital of each state and other prominent cities are marked with a red star, bearing reference to instances of attack on non-violent civil rights demonstrators in the 1950s and 60s. Cities such as Selma, Alabama where peaceful marchers were brutally attacked by state troopers whilst marching to the Alabama capital of Montgomery, and Philadelphia, Mississippi where three civil rights workers were viciously murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan, were all referenced by name in “The Confederacy Series”. Thus, Indiana offers an unavoidable criticism of the social inequality in America, and chronicles its contemporary history of racial violence.