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Robert Indiana (b. 1928)
Robert Indiana (b. 1928)


Robert Indiana (b. 1928)
stamped with the artist's signature, numbered and dated '© 1966-1999 R INDIANA 2/5' (on the inside of the "E")
polychrome aluminium
96 1/8 x 96 1/8 x 48in. (244 x 244 x 121.9cm.)
with base: 102 1/8 x 96 x 50in. (259.5 x 245 x 127cm.)
Conceived in 1966 and executed in 1999, this work is number two from an edition of five plus two artist's proofs
Morgan Art Foundation, Geneva.
Private Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 13 November 2008, lot 126.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Post Lot Text
This work can also be exhibited outdoors.
This work will be included in the forthcoming Robert Indiana Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by Simon Salama-Caro.

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Alice de Roquemaurel
Alice de Roquemaurel

Lot Essay

'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. 168).

Heroic in scale, Robert Indiana's LOVE is an iconic sculpture from the artist's most celebrated series. The typographic arrangement of four stacked letters is rendered in industrial aluminium and employs the artist's quintessential colour combination of red, green and blue. By tilting the 'O' slyly to one side, Indiana infuses his construction with an undeniable sense of dynamism. With its clean-edged stencil-style outline and dazzling unmodulated patina, this 'one-word poem', as Indiana himself fondly calls it, is arresting in its visual effect.

Indiana developed his striking graphic vocabulary during the 1950s while working in a derelict studio on Coenties Slip at the tip of Lower Manhattan. Here he created assemblages of found objects and discarded materials, using abandoned commercial stencils to introduce text into his art. The simplicity and precision of his distinctive aesthetic reflects the urban geometry of New York City and was conceived in part as a reaction against the introversion and existentialism of the painterly style of the Abstract Expressionists.

The word 'Love' initially surfaced 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). A commission from the Museum of Modern Art followed for a painting to be reproduced on a greetings card. Indiana had by then distilled his concept and its image to its essence and presented a canvas comprising the four red letters of 'Love' stacked against a blue and green background. Rejecting linear display, the artist assembled the word in a square block, with one letter in each quadrant.

This motif has been transposed into sculptural form in the present work. The colour palette symbolically references the landscape of Indiana's youth, combining the fire engine red from the logo of the Phillips 66 gasoline company (where his father had worked during the Great Depression) with the vivid blue of the expansive mid-western skies and the rich green of the gently rolling plains. Widely disseminated due to lack of copyright control, Indiana's LOVE captured the imagination of the flower children generation who embraced it as an emblem of 1960s idealism. In an era dominated by the fight for civil rights, nuclear disarmament and the Vietnam War, the word became synonymous with the youth driven counter-culture, featuring in numerous slogans from the protest banners urging all to 'Make Love Not War' to the hippie revolution's Summer of Love celebration in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. In this way, LOVE stands as both an icon of personal significance for the artist but also an enduring message of universal peace and harmony.

Indiana's seminal design has lent itself to many variations and has been reproduced in a range of colours, materials and languages. Bold and beautiful, its vibrant palette and clean lines are redolent of the flat surfaces of Ellsworth Kelly. 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. 168).

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