Divided in two and with the preceding monosyllable superimposed over the following, Love is once a powerful and playful statement in three dimensions. The famed compositional arrangement of the letters L.O.V.E. was conceived by Indiana for a Christmas card commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965, 5 years after the museum had for the first time acquired a work of his. The hard-edge surface and the chromatic decisions pay tribute to the formulaic principles of Indiana’s mentor and lover of some time, Ellsworth Kelly, whilst the masterful separation of the semantic from the graphic aligns Indiana with giants of Pop art, especially Ed Ruscha. With LOVE and all its variants, Indiana splendidly captured the Zeitgeist of the countercultural movement which culminated in the Summer of Love of 1967 and distilled the aspirations translating them into a powerful artistic expression that is today as relevant as fifty years ago.
The expressive red and the light blue are used not just for their symbolic association with love and hope but, in an autobiographical note from Indiana, assimilate the colour scheme of the logo of the Phillips 66 gasoline company where his father worked during the Great Depression. Thus, irrespective of the seemingly simple, pristine directness of Love, the works of the series are thus deeply anchored in the life of the artist. With regards to the genesis of what Indiana calls a ‘one-word poem’, he illuminates: “The reason I became so involved in Love is that it is so much a part of the peculiar American environment, particularly in my own background, which was Christian Science. God is Love is spelled out in every church.” (Robert Indiana cited in: Exh. Cat., Nice, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Robert Indiana, 1998, p. 27). Love brings to fruition the architectural weight of the compositional form through its bold typographical design. The stacked letters with the signature slanted O commit to a square format in this iconic sculpture. 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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