Robert Indiana

Love
1966
Robert Indiana
American
oil on canvas
71 7/8 x 71 7/8 in.
In this painting, four red letters affectionately touch, spelling out the word “love.” This symmetrical, hard-edged composition belongs to a series that Indiana developed between 1964 and 1966 and that comprised Christmas cards, paintings, posters, sculptures, felt banners, eighteen-karat gold rings, silk tapestries, and album covers. After pirated versions of LOVE began to appear in various contexts, Indiana tried to copyright his unique work, but the federal government rejected his application, arguing that no one could copyright a single word. Indiana’s signature emblem became one of the most reproduced and highly recognizable art-historical images of the post-World War II era. In 1970, Indiana made a twelve-foot Cor-ten steel LOVE sculpture, now in the IMA’s permanent collection. Some critics believed it manifested the artist’s desire to reclaim his “stolen” design.
Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, the artist changed his last name when he moved to New York City in 1954. Although he has claimed frequently that the idea for his series came from the Christian Science motto, God is love, which he saw in church as a child, Indiana’s work also resonated with the 1960s counterculture. Stylistically, LOVE most often has been characterized in relation to Op art because of its repetition of bright, vibrating, simple forms and to Pop art because of its appropriation of sign painting, an important by-product of consumer culture.
“LOVE was a watershed in Indiana’s career, and it became a motif that he has never abandoned.”
-Art historian Susan Elizabeth Ryan, 1999
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