Robert Indiana’s Love is the defining image of Pop art and Contemporary American culture. The bold, eye-catching text-driven design has become Indiana’s legacy. Throughout the artist’s life and career, he has looked to signs as inspiration, utilizing their dual simplicity and profound ability to capture meaning, desire and emotion. The classic compositional arrangement of the letters L. O. V. E. was designed for a Christmas card commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art in 1965. Even prior to this, Indiana began to explore the potential of the omnipotent four letter word in a 1958 poem, 'Wherefore the Punctuation of the Heart,' revealing his admiration of e.e. cummings and Gertrude Stein.
While Indiana's Love was initially conceptualized and executed in a two-dimensional format, it is its sculptural iteration that has achieved such an iconic status in Indiana's oeuvre. The artist fabricated his first cor-ten steel Love sculpture in 1970 for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Love has been a staple of museum and institutional collections worldwide ever since. The present work carries on this legacy, culminating in a colossal 96 inches, enveloping its environment in its universal message.
Growing up in depression era Indiana, the artist spent the first 17 years of his life moving from home to home as his parents searched for employment. The family car became the lasting structure of Indiana’s childhood, and his experiences within that car a lasting influence on his work. The hard-edged, flat forms and stenciled words and phrases of Indiana’s oeuvre share aesthetic characteristics with roadside signs and signals. These signs became a fixation for Indiana, who admired their ability to encapsulate intangible meanings, desires, and emotions in a straightforward and accessible presentation. In his artistic production, Indiana took the vernacular of signs and expanded it, forging connections with conceptualism and Pop art while keeping the immediacy and legibility of his referents.
Describing the work as a ‘one-word poem,’ Indiana explained that ‘Love is purely a skeleton of all that word has meant in all the erotic and religious aspects of the theme, and to bring it down to the actual structure of calligraphy [is to reduce it] to the bare bone” (the artist in Ed., Theresa Brakeley, Robert Indiana, New York 1990, p. 168). Love brings to fruition the architectural weight of the compositional form through its bold typographical design and variegated patina. The stacked steel letters with the signature slanted O commit to a square format in this impressive outdoor sculpture, measuring 6 feet tall. The linguistic simplicity and striking geometry have become part of our cultural lexicon for one of the most complex core emotions of humanity.
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