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Robert Indiana’s painting LOVE is a formally sophisticated abstract composition, yet it is also, in essence, a one-word poem. The brilliant contrast of the colors and the bold contours of the letters imbue the word with an extraordinary visual intensity. Indiana has arranged the word so that it fits in a square format, with the stacked letters touching one another in a manner that suggests physical intimacy.
This work belongs to a series of paintings, sculptures and prints dedicated to the theme of love that Indiana commenced in the mid-1960s. He created many variations on this theme, including a design for a Christmas card that was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965. Indiana rendered that composition on a monumental scale in the present painting. Since its inception, Indiana’s distinctive rendering of “love” as both a word and an image has captured the popular imagination and become one of the most immediately recognizable works of art in the world.
Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, the artist changed his last name upon moving to New York City in 1954. In the early 1960s, Indiana explored the style of hard-edged painting that his friends such as Ellsworth Kelly were exploring. His interest in words, however, distinguished his works from other abstract painters of the time. Indiana had a long-standing interest in the written word, having been inspired by poets such as Gertrude Stein early in his career. His composition for LOVE is innovative in the way it dissolves divisions between seeing and reading, as well as figure and ground. Indiana has described the character of his work as “verbal-visual.”
Purchased from (Talbot Gallery, New York, New York) by the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1967.