After exploring the immediate surroundings of his studio in the 1960s, Robert Indiana discovered the brass stencils of nineteenth century maritime companies that awakened his interest in typography and would become a central theme throughout his distinguished career. Expressing his interest in the sign language of contemporary American culture, Indiana used the stencilled letters to create his signature lexicographical paintings and sculptures, forging iconic typographical designs that carried particular relevance in the context of popular culture in the United States. Originally conceived as a Christmas postcard for the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1964, Indiana’s iconic LOVE design found resonance amongst the Love Generation of the 1960s, and has since become one of the most recognisable sculptures from its generation. More than fifty years after its initial design, the visual punch created by the cleverly composed letters with its characteristically tilted O has not diminished, but has become ever more ingrained in our collective memory. As Robert Storr observed, “no matter how the setting darkened, Indiana’s LOVE logo remained an agelessly stylish symbol of a cultural-preeminent sexual-sea change” (Robert Storr et al., Robert Indiana: New Perspectives, Ostfildern 2012, p. 11).
In 1970 the first LOVE sculpture was produced in Cor-ten steel on a monumental scale measuring twelve feet high, and was shown outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The sculpture later travelled to Boston and was installed in the plaza surrounding city hall as part of exhibition Monumental Sculpture for Public Spaces. Indiana would return to using this highly tangible material, which works so instinctively with its surroundings.
Apart from being an unmistakable icon of pop art and the 1960s in the United States in general, Indiana’s interest in language also engages with the work of contemporaries such as Ed Ruscha - emphasising the multiplicity of religious, erotic, personal and political connotations of language. Not only is Robert Indiana’s LOVE therefore a visually striking example of one of the most timeless typographical designs, but also an important testament to some of the most important developments in post-war American art history.
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