Robert Indiana

American artist (1928-2018)

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Robert Indiana
BobIndianaRestingMaine (cropped).jpg
Robert Indiana at his home in Maine
Robert Clark

(1928-09-13)September 13, 1928
DiedMay 19, 2018(2018-05-19) (aged 89)
EducationHerron School of Art and Design
OccupationArtist, theatrical set designer and costume designer
MovementPop art, Hard-edge painting

Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark; September 13, 1928 – May 19, 2018) was an American artist associated with the pop art movement. His "LOVE" print, first created for the Museum of Modern Art's Christmas card in 1965, was the basis for his 1970 Love sculpture and the widely distributed 1973 United States Postal Service "LOVE" stamp. He created works in media including paper (silk screen) and Cor-ten steel.


Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, and was adopted as an infant by Earl Clark and Carmen Watters.[1][2][3] After his parents divorced, he relocated to Indianapolis to live with his father so he could attend Arsenal Technical High School (1942–1946),[4][5] from which he graduated as valedictorian of his class.[2]

After serving for three years in the United States Army Air Forces, Indiana studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1949–1953), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (summer 1953) and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1953–1954).[5] He returned to the United States in 1954 and settled in New York City.[6]

In New York, Indiana's lover Ellsworth Kelly, that he met in 1956, helped him find a loft on Coenties Slip.[2][7] On Coenties Slip he met neighboring artists like Jack Youngerman, Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly, with whom he shared his studio for a time.[2]

Indiana's career took off in the early 1960s after Alfred H. Barr, Jr., bought The American Dream, 1 for the Museum of Modern Art.[8]

In 1964, Indiana moved from Coenties Slip to a five-story building at Spring Street and the Bowery.[9] In 1969, he began renting the upstairs of the mansarded Victorian-style[10] Odd Fellows Hall named "The Star of Hope" in the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine, as a seasonal studio from the photographer Eliot Elisofon.[10] Half a century earlier, Marsden Hartley had made his escape to the same island.[10] When Elisofon died in 1973, Indiana bought the lodge for $10,000 from his estate. He moved in full-time when he lost his lease on the Bowery in 1978.[11]

Indiana grew reclusive in his final years.[2] He died on May 19, 2018, at his home in Vinalhaven, Maine, of respiratory failure at the age of 89.[3] One day before his death, a lawsuit was filed over claims that his caretaker had isolated him from family and friends, and was marketing unauthorized reproductions of his works.[12]


Indiana's work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like EAT, HUG, and, his best known example, LOVE. In his EAT series, the word blares in paint or light bulbs against a neutral background; he regularly paired “EAT” with “DIE”.[10] In a major career milestone, the architect Philip Johnson commissioned an EAT sign for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.[8] The sign was turned off one day after the opening of the fair because visitors believed it to mark a restaurant. Andy Warhol's contribution to the fair was also removed that day.[13][14]

Other well-known works by Indiana include: his painting the unique basketball court formerly used by the Milwaukee Bucks in that city's MECCA Arena, with a large M shape taking up each half of the court;[15][16] his sculpture in the lobby of Taipei 101, called 1-0 (2002, aluminum), using multicoloured numbers to suggest the conduct of world trade and the patterns of human life;[17] and the works he created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and exhibited in New York in 2004 called the Peace Paintings.[18]

Between 1989 and 1994, Indiana painted a series of 18 canvases inspired by the shapes and numbers in the war motifs paintings that Marsden Hartley did in Berlin between 1913 and 1915.[19]

Indiana was also a theatrical set and costume designer, such as the 1976 production by the Santa Fe Opera of Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All, based on the life of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.[20] He was the star of Andy Warhol's film Eat (1964), which is a 45-minute film of Indiana eating a mushroom.[21] Warhol also made the brief silent film Bob Indiana Etc. (4 minutes, 1963), a portrait of the artist with appearances by Wynn Chamberlain and John Giorno.[22]


1973 LOVE stamp

Indiana's best known image is the word Love in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter "O".[23] The iconography first appeared in a series of poems originally written in 1958, in which Indiana stacked LO and VE on top of one another,[23] then in paintings like 4-STAR LOVE (1961) and "Love is God" (1964).[23][24]

The art historian Susan Elizabeth Ryan wrote that “LOVE” had in 1964 a "more explicit four-letter word — beginning with F, and with a second letter, a U, intriguingly tilted to the right." Indiana and Kelly had been on a rocky relationship and Indiana had been working on word paintings. She adds "The two men were in the habit of exchanging postcard-size sketches, with Mr. Kelly laying down fields of color and Mr. Indiana adding large words atop the abstractions."[25][26]

The red/green/blue image was then created for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964.[23] In an interview Robert Indiana said "It was the most profitable Christmas card the museum ever published."[27]

Indiana said he was inspired to use these colors because his dad used to work at a Phillips 66 gas station which colors were green and red. Robert Indiana described the original colors as "the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky". Still it is believed the colors were inspired also by the paintings Red Blue Green (1963) of Ellsworth Kelly, his former partner.[28][7]

Indiana said, "Ellsworth Kelly introduced me to Hard-Edge and was a great influence on my work, and is responsible for my being here".[27]

The first serigraph/silk screen of "Love" was printed as part of an exhibition poster for Stable Gallery in 1966.[29] The print was bold green and blue, with a red advertisement of the gallery exhibition at the bottom<Love and the American Dream: the art of Robert Indiana>. The only few signed copies of this print removed the red portion, was signed on the bottom reverse by Indiana, which was common with his early work, and given as gifts to the workers who set up the gallery exhibition. (2005 email correspondence with one of the actual workers who set up the show, and owner of one of the signed prints).

In 1973, it was put on an eight-cent U.S. Postal Service postage stamp, the first of their regular series of "love stamps".[23]

A close view of LOVE in Hebrew (Ahava אהבה) with two people, at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, taken in 2008
Hebrew version

In 1977, he created a Hebrew version with the four-letter word Ahava (אהבה "love" in Hebrew) using Cor-ten steel, for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem, taken in 2012[30]


In 2008, Indiana created an image similar to his iconic LOVE, but this time showcasing the word "HOPE", and donated all proceeds from the sale of reproductions of his image to Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign, raising in excess of $1,000,000.[31] A stainless steel sculpture of HOPE was unveiled outside Denver's Pepsi Center during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[31] Editions of the sculpture have been released and sold internationally and the artist himself has called HOPE "Love's close relative".[31]

Variation for Google

For Valentine's Day 2011, Indiana created a similar variation on LOVE for Google, which was displayed in place of the search engine site's normal logo.[32]


In 1962, Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery hosted Robert Indiana's first New York solo exhibition.[33] He was represented by Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City and Galerie Gmurzynska in Europe.[34]

From July 4 – September 14, 2008, Indiana's work was the subject of the grand multiple-location exhibition "Robert Indiana a Milano" with the main exhibition having been at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Pavilion of Contemporary Art), in the city, with other works displayed in public piazzas.[35][36]

In 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a retrospective of his work entitled "Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE", this exhibition traveled to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.[37]

Appearances of his work in popular culture

Millions of television viewers saw an orange, brown, and white version of Five, one of Indiana's 1965 Cardinal Numbers series, featured in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show during the 1971–1972 season, in which Rhoda Morgenstern redecorates Lou Grant's dated living room. Lou, evidently not a fan of pop art, complains to Mary, "I bet she went through four other paintings before choosing this one!"[38]

In 2014, ESPN released MECCA: The floor that made Milwaukee famous, a short film in its 30 for 30 series of sports documentaries that chronicled how Indiana's floor at the MECCA was saved from being sold for scrap.[15]


Indiana's career took off in the early 1960s after Alfred H. Barr, Jr., bought The American Dream, 1 for the Museum of Modern Art.[8]

Today, Indiana's works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, Allentown, Pennsylvania; Williams College Museum of Art or WCMA, in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Brandeis Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, among many others.[39]

Art market

In May 2011, a 12-foot LOVE sculpture – one in an edition of three identical pieces – sold for $4.1 million.[10]


  1. ^ "Biography | Robert Indiana". Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jori Finkel (May 21, 2018), Robert Indiana, 89, Who Turned ‘Love’ Into Enduring Art, Is Dead New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Michael. "Robert Indiana, artist behind Philly's iconic LOVE sculpture, dies at 89". Obituary. Philly Voice. WWB Holdings, LLC.
  4. ^ "Arsenal Technical High School". Digital Lindy. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Biography: Robert Indiana". RobertIndiana. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  6. ^ "Robert Indiana". New York, NY: MoMA.
  7. ^ a b "The hidden message in Robert Indiana's Love | Art | Agenda". Phaidon. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Jesse McKinley (September 19, 2013). "An Artist's LOVE-Hate Relationship - Robert Indiana Assumes One Work Has Swamped His Career". New York Times.
  9. ^ "Robert Indiana – Mr. Love finds an island, if not entirely to himself". The New York Times. At Home With. February 6, 2003. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Ariella Budick (September 28, 2012). "Locating love in a chilly climate". Financial Times.
  11. ^ Colman, David (February 6, 2003). "Mr. Love finds an island, if not entirely to himself". New York Times.
  12. ^ "Pop Art hero and artist of 'LOVE' Robert Indiana dies at 89". ArtNet News. May 21, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Artist Robert Indiana is on the menu in Maine". Los Angeles Times. June 26, 2009.
  14. ^ "13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World's Fair at the Queens Museum". Observer. New York, NY: Observer Media. April 13, 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Mecca: The Floor that made Milwaukee famous". Grantland. July 11, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  16. ^ "Milwaukee Bucks unveil new court design". September 24, 2013. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  17. ^ Publicly posted material, Floor 89, Taipei 101. August 17, 2007.
  18. ^ Johnson, Ken (May 21, 2004). "Robert Indiana – 'Peace Paintings'". New York Times. Art in Review. New York, NY.
  19. ^ Glueck, Grace (August 27, 1999). "Robert Indiana's Career: Love and American Style". New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2014. Between 1989 and 1994, Mr. Indiana painted a series of 18 canvases inspired by the shapes and numbers in the war motifs paintings that Hartley – who once worked in Vinalhaven – did in Berlin between 1913–1915. They commemorate a slain German officer the artist had befriended.
  20. ^ "Robert Indiana: The Mother of Us All". Artsy. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  21. ^ Rubin, Joan S.; Boyer, Paul S.; Casper, Scott E. (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History. Oxford University Press. p. 728. ISBN 9780199764358.
  22. ^ "Who's-who of Warhol's unseen films". Brooklyn Academy of Music. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d e "LOVE". Scottsdale Public Art. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011.
  24. ^ "Selected Works | Robert Indiana". Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  25. ^ Ryan, Elizabeth (2000). Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech.
  26. ^ Sokol, Brett (May 23, 2018). "'LOVE' and Other Four-Letter Words". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Robert Indiana on 50 Years of Art, and the Fraught Life of "LOVE"". Artspace. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  28. ^ "Red Blue Green, 1963 - Ellsworth Kelly -". Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  29. ^ Love and the American Dream: the art of Robert Indiana. p. 87.
  30. ^ "AHAVA: Robert Indiana". Robert Indiana. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  31. ^ a b c "New Castle native Robert Indiana creates HOPE image for Obama". The Star Press. Associated Press.
  32. ^ "Robert Indiana & Google wishes Happy Valentine's Day". Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  33. ^ "Robert Indiana, Love Sculptor New York". Hopeday. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  34. ^ "Robert Indiana". Paul Kasmin Gallery. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Tra pop e tipografia, Robert Indiana a Milano". Artsblog (in Italian). July 4, 2008.
  37. ^ Johnson, Ken (September 26, 2013). "Robert Indiana and 'Beyond Love' at the Whitney". New York Times. New York, NY.
  38. ^ "The Square-Shaped Room". The Mary Tyler Moore Show. 1971.
  39. ^ "Robert Indiana".

Further reading

External links

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