Artist

Robert Indiana

1928–2018

Best known for his iconic series of LOVE sculptures, Robert Indiana was an American printmaker, painter, and sculptor. Born Robert Clark in 1928, the artist took his nom de pop art from the state he grew up in, moving from house to house after being adopted at a young age. In his work, Indiana adapts the classic iconography of Americana—road signs, advertising, and logos—create his Pop art icons. Equally inspired by the written word as by visual art, Indiana turns words into physical objects, in a bid to simultaneously celebrate and question the American Dream and other myths.

 

In 1954, Indiana established his studio at Coenties Slip, a rural artistic community on the coast of south-east Manhattan. The scenery and landscape provided a great deal of inspiration to his early work, using salvaged materials to assemble the self-supporting sculptures which Indiana referred to as “herms”. In this early phase of his career, Indiana’s work was shown at a number of significant exhibitions at galleries such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which first acquired one of his paintings—the first in his ongoing American Dream series—in 1961. This cemented him as a leading figure of the era’s Pop Art movement, propelling him to mainstream renown leading up to his most famed design.

 

Indiana’s career took off in earnest in 1966 when his LOVE series was featured in a show at the Stable Gallery, New York, marking a visual departure from his previous work for its bold lettering and bright colours. The design was featured on a postage stamp just seven years later, and became a major piece of iconography for the hippie movement. Indiana has come back to the LOVE design often, including printing a translated version in Hebrew for Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. 1966 also saw Indiana’s work exhibited across Europe for the first time, at galleries in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Works such as his Confederacy paintings, and Metamorphosis Of Norma Jean Mortenson, his vivid tribute to Marilyn Monroe, garnering particular international acclaim.

 

Throughout the 1960s Indiana addressed issues of love and death through his sharp-edged, high-contrast art which deployed text both formally and linguistically. Indiana was also interested in the formal beauty and symbolic power of cardinal numbers. During both the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, Indiana made a series of works inspired by the idiom of peace protests.

 

The artist left Manhattan in 1978, some 24 years after moving there, and established a new studio on the island of Vinalhaven in the state of Maine. Indiana returned to many of the themes and methods of his early years with his Hartley Elegies. Inspired by the former owner of his studio,  he worked on this series, and a series of found object sculptures, from the late eighties to 1994. His work continued to be shown worldwide with retrospective exhibitions opening in Milan and St. Petersburg, as well as a travelling show which started in 2013 at the Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York City, called “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE”.

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