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Remembering Robert Indiana through These 6 Artworks

  • LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana
May 22, 2018
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

Throughout the career that spanned several decades, Robert Indiana created one of the most iconic and widely reproduced artworks of the 20th century. The artist passed away at his home on Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine on May 19, aged 89.

His bold rendering of the word “love” has become as universal as the word itself. Gracing hundreds of prints, paintings and sculptures, around 330 million postage stamps that he authorized, and a variety of merchandise that he did not, LOVE took a life of its own, becoming the of the most recognizable images in popular culture.

The work is celebrated for its innovative composition, comprised of two parts of colorful capital letters stacked in a square. While letters LV, and E stand tall, the letter O swoons on its side. Embedding the meaning of the word in its typography, the artist knocked off the letter off its balance, as if sweeping it off its feet, evoking every kind of passion. Having a deeply personal meaning to the artist, the work was a tribute to his father who died at the end of 1965. The red and green recall the sign of the Phillips 66 where his father worked, while the blue evokes the sky of his home state and chosen namesake, Indiana.

Although the work was immensely popular, it didn’t bring much good to its author. Since Indiana failed to copyright his piece, it was reproduced in a myriad of unauthorized forms. At the same time, he was condemned by fellow artists, who accused him of pleasing the mainstream.

Indiana is often mistaken for a one-hit wonder and his entire oeuvre is exhausted into this one piece. However, there is far more to the artist’s oeuvre than this single word. Throughout his career, he explored the American experience and identity, employing everyday objects and language. The work he did in the 1960s is particularly powerful, depicting the darker side of the American dream. Combining non-art materials, ordinary language, and commercially-inspired graphic designs with more traditional elements of art, he produced works with many levels of personal and political meaning.

Disappointed by New York and its overwhelming art scene and exhausted from battling plagiarism, the artist retreated to the isolated Maine Island of Vinalhaven in 1978 in a kind of self-imposed exile. Despite having a profound meaning for him, he couldn’t control what became of his artwork, and in a way started to resent it. In recent years, the artist had grown even more reclusive. As reported, efforts by some longtime friends and business associates to reach him had been unavailing.

To celebrate the legacy of Robert Indiana, we have compiled a list of his pieces that you can own right now.

Featured image: LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan, NY, by Hu Totya via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Classic HOPE (Red Blue Green), 2010

Classic HOPE: Red, Blue, Green, 2010

In 2008, when Barack Obama ran for office, Robert Indiana gave his support through art. He recasted LOVE as another four-letter wordHOPE.

The work uses the same color scheme of his original LOVE sculpture – red, blue and green – and it is executed in the same typography. The work encapsulates the interfused, dynamic realignment of Indiana’s graphics that for a kinetic energy that is both timeless and timely.

With this work, Indiana had conceived the political message of our time – hope. Reproduced on a variety of merchandise, the artwork subsequently inspired Hope Day. Each year on artist’s birthday on September 13th, HOPE sculptures are installed in locations throughout the world. This is aimed at fulfilling the artist’s vision of covering the world with HOPE.

You can find more info about the work here.

  • Brooklyn Bridge (New York, New York Portfolio), 1983

Brooklyn Bridge (New York, New York Portfolio), 1983

The work Brooklyn Bridge from 1983 was created after the artist retreated to the isolated Maine Island of Vinalhaven. Indiana originally intended it as an homage to Frank Stella, since he admired reproductions of his paintings.

However, he became disillusioned with Stella after seeing his actual paintings in the Whitney show. Changing his intention, he decided to use the text of Hart Crane for the lines around the bridges, so the work became an homage to Crane instead.

With bold colors and clearly defined contours, this work perfectly aligns with his Pop Art aesthetic.

See more info about the work here.

Decade Autoportrait 1969, V/H, 1980

Although he left for Chicago at a young age, Robert Indiana always found ways to commemorate his home state through his work.

In the Decade: Autoportraits Portfolio, he draws inspiration from locales across the state. These prints are drawn from an original series of thirty paintings from the 1960s that depict memories, events, or locations he happened on throughout his travels.

The artist summed up his Decade: Autoportraits portfolio stating, “These are multiple self-portraits in terms of chronicling these memories and events from my viewpoint.”

See more info about the work here.

  • Heal

Heal, 2015

Once again, the artist recasted LOVE as another four-letter word HEAL, executing it in the same typography. In this version, the artist used the same color scheme as in the original LOVE sculpture – red, green and blue.

This work was created in 2015, testifying to the longevity of the artist’s vision.

See more info about the work here.

  • Hope Wall- Black & White, 2009

Hope Wall: Black & White, 2009

This work Hope Wall: Black & White is a part of the series of works that the artist created to support Barack Obama’s first run for the office. Picking up this semiotic item, Indiana elevated it to a picture, playing with the relation of meaning and form of those words.

Indiana’s HOPE has become the new global icon for generations now and in the future.

See more info about the work here.

  • Robert Indiana - LOVE (Blue Red Green)

LOVE (Blue Red Green)

At the LOVE Show at the Stable Gallery in the late 1960s, the artist exhibited paintings, drawing and small sculptures that played on the word “love”.

For the show, he produced nearly unlimited editions of the LOVE print that were affordable, creating opportunities for people to participate with art.

At the same time, he challenged the idea of the art elite that somehow quality had to do with scarcity.

See more info about the work here.