“It’s always been a matter of impact, the relationship of color to color and word to shape and word to complete piece—both the literal and visual aspects. I’m most concerned with the force of its impact.”
— Robert Indiana
Heroic in scale, Robert Indiana's AMOR is an impactful sculpture derived from the artist's most celebrated series. One of modern visual language’s most iconic statements, rivaling Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots or Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, Robert Indiana’s LOVE series is recognized and cherished across the globe for its aspirational universality. The current work is an exquisite example of Indiana’s sculptural variants on this ubiquitous theme, using the Spanish translation of the original word thus extending the spirit of love into several languages and cultures. 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, and the sculpture’s vibrant red and yellow color palette has turned Indiana’s work into an iconic Pop motif.
With its strong visual impact and pulsating high-keyed palette, AMOR stands out. The typographic arrangement of four stacked letters is rendered in industrial aluminum and features the artist's quintessential use of primary colors, here contrasting a bright red with a warm vibrant yellow. Indiana’s interest in primary colors and the hard-edge image stems largely from his fellow artist and friend, Ellsworth Kelly. “Kelly is the chief influence upon my color,” he states. “No one impressed me more with the use of primary color than Ellsworth. I never thought about color until I knew Ellsworth and heard his long discourses on the subject and watched his paintings being painted” (R. Indiana, quoted in B. Haskell, Robert Indiana: Beyond Love, New York, 2013, p. 229). While the four letters are oriented on a strict cruciform axis, with the A and M sitting heavily on the bottom two letters, by tilting the 'O' slyly to one side, Indiana infuses his construction with an undeniable sense of playful dynamism. Both a formal, abstract configuration and a shaped poem, the present work’s dual nature as an imperative utterance and artwork, what Indiana described as a “verbal-visual” act, fires an extraordinary sonic and optical intensity through its bold typographic design (B. Haskell, Robert Indiana: Beyond Love, New York, 2013, p. 61).
This seminal design has been translated into several languages, materials, and colors. This Spanish (or possibly Latin) example made its first appearance on a plaza outside the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid in 2006. From New York to Tokyo, the LOVE series is internationally recognizable and beloved by both the art world and the general public, and is displayed in many public places, as well as housed within major museum collections. An identical edition from this series is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and is currently on view in the museum’s sculpture garden.
Indiana’s AMOR is a quintessential example of the artist’s obsessive fascination with text and commercial signage seen throughout the bustling New York City urban space. Indiana arrived at his high-impact graphic vocabulary during the late 1950s, working in the derelict studios of Coenties Slip at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was here, in the company of Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist and Ellsworth Kelly, that Indiana reacted against the extreme introversion and existential angst prevalent in the painterly self-assertions of the Abstract Expressionists, to form an art that reflected the geometry of the city. However, while mastering this billboard-like style, Indiana continued to imbue his abstract compositions with deeply personal meanings. The artist thus championed the duality that defined the changing artistic tides happening in New York at that time, marrying Minimalism with Pop to create timeless work with instantaneous impact.
As one of the multiple iterations of the Indiana’s crowd-pleasing LOVE sculptures, AMOR proves that love is a symbol and a globally uniting feeling. AMOR, like its English counterpart, is emblematic of the power and extensive public impact of lettering and language. “What I am thinking about is the very elementary part that language plays in a man’s thinking processes and this includes his identification of anything visual,” Indiana continues, “I’m sure that the word, the object, and the idea are almost inextricably lost in the mind, and to divide them…doesn’t have to be done” (R. Indiana, quoted in J. Katz, “Two-Faced Truths: Robert Indiana’s Queer Semiotic,” Robert Indiana: New Perspectives, Ostfildern, 2012, p. 217). Taken at face value, AMOR is geometrically sharp, clean lines surrounding panes of color—however, the emblematic meaning housed within the four letters transcends the formal properties of the work. Precise and simple, its prevalence in modern language allows for universal understanding cementing its place in the visual vocabulary of the modern world.