Constructed from industrial steel on a heroic scale LOVE is an iconic sculpture from Robert Indiana's most celebrated series. With its bold typographic design and alluring unmodulated patina, this 'one-word poem', as the artist himself fondly calls it, is arresting in its visual effect. The bright and appealing colour palette is symbolic of the artist's home state of Indiana; the colours combine the fire engine red from the logo of the Phillips 66 gasoline company (where the artist's father had worked during the Great Depression) with the vivid blue of the expansive mid-western skies.
The word 'Love' was first used in Indiana's work in his 1958 poem 'Wherefore the Punctuation of the Heart' which revealed his admiration of E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein. Its first appearance in painted form came six years later when the artist traced 'Love is God' onto a diamond shaped canvas, inverting a common church motto of his youth. As Indiana explained, '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' (R. Indiana, quoted in Robert Indiana, exh. cat., Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain, Nice, 1998, p. 27).
In an era dominated by the fight for civil rights, nuclear disarmament and the Vietnam War, Indiana's LOVE captured the imagination of the flower children generation who embraced it as an emblem of 1960s idealism. Despite the geometric clarity of LOVE, the symbolic connotations of the word transcend the abstract quality of its form. As Indiana has asserted, 'In a sense, I got down to the subject matter of my work... the subject is defined by its expression in the word itself... LOVE is purely a skeleton of all that word has meant in all the erotic and religious aspects of the theme, and to bring it down to the actual structure of calligraphy [is to reduce it] to the bare bone' (R. Indiana, quoted in T. Brakeley (ed.), Robert Indiana, New York, 1990, p.166.)