Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" sculpture returns to NYC after four years
The Rockefeller Center, in partnership with The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, have installed a series of works by the influential American artist throughout its campus until 23 October 2023. Featuring monumental sculptures and a series of flags surrounding The Rink at Rockefeller Center, the exhibition highlights works created by Indiana throughout his distinguished career, including the long-awaited return of his iconic LOVE sculpture to New York City.
LOVE, a 12-foot-high polychrome aluminum public artwork, sits on Center Plaza. For decades, this version of the beloved sculpture stood at the corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue, until it was removed for conservation in 2019. The LOVE sculpture’s illustrious history as a New York landmark began in 1971 when a version of the work was first displayed at the Fifth Avenue and 60th Street entrance to Central Park. LOVE, with its unmistakable slanted ‘O’ within a square format, first appeared in 1964 in a series of frottage drawings in graphite and colored pencil, which Indiana sent as cards to art world friends. As Indiana explained in 1969, “The ‘LOVE Sculpture’ is the culmination of ten years of work based on the original premise that the word is an appropriated and usable element of art, just as Picasso and the Cubists made use of it at the beginning of the century.”
The second major feature of the Rockefeller Center installation are Indiana’s monumental sculptures ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) (1980-2001), each eight feet high and made of Cor-ten steel, which represent the cycle of human life from birth to death. Indiana’s fascination with numbers — a
significant motif throughout his work — stemmed from an awareness of how they are connected to everything we do and how they are understood across many languages. Indiana remarked, “Numbers fill my life. They fill my life even more than love. We are immersed in numbers from the moment we are born.”
193 flags surrounding The Rink at Rockefeller Center feature images from Indiana’s Peace Paintings series, created as a response to the 9/11 attacks, which he witnessed while in New York City. Incorporating the peace sign, these paintings reflect poignant themes of unity, acceptance and love that are present throughout Indiana’s work. “I think of my peace paintings as one long poem, with each painting being a single stanza,” Indiana said in 2003.
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) was one of the pioneers of art in the 20th Century, whose influence on American culture continues today. A preeminent figure in American art since the 1960s, Indiana played a central role in the development of assemblage art and hard-edge painting as well as Pop. A self proclaimed
“American painter of signs,” Indiana created a highly original body of work that explores American identity, personal history and the power of abstraction and language, establishing an important legacy that resonates in the work of many contemporary artists who make the written word a central element of their practice.