Robert Indiana

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Robert Indiana
Robert Indiana.jpg
Robert Indiana. Photo by Dennis Griggs
Robert Clark

(1928-09-13)September 13, 1928
DiedMay 19, 2018(2018-05-19) (aged 89)
EducationHerron School of Art and Design, Arsenal Technical High School, Art Institute of Chicago, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Edinburgh College of Art
OccupationArtist, theatrical set designer and costume designer
MovementPop art, Hard-edge painting

Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark; September 13, 1928 – May 19, 2018) was an American artist associated with the pop art movement.

His iconic image LOVE was first created in 1964 in the form of a card which he sent to several friends and acquaintances in the art world. In 1965, Robert Indiana was invited to propose an artwork to be featured on the Museum of Modern Art's annual Christmas card. Indiana submitted several 12” square oil on canvas variations based on his LOVE image. The museum selected the most intense color combination in red, blue, and green. It became one of the most popular cards the museum has ever offered.[1] Indiana continued to develop his LOVE series, and in 1966, worked with Marian Goodman of Multiples, Inc. to make his first LOVE sculpture in aluminum. In 1970, Indiana completed his first monumental LOVE sculpture in Cor-Ten steel which is in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

In addition to being a painter and sculptor, Indiana made posters and prints and also designed stage sets and costumes for the Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein opera The Mother of Us All.[2] Indiana's artwork has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world and is included in the permanent collections of many major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, and was adopted as an infant by Earl Clark and Carmen Watters.[3][4][5] After his parents divorced, he relocated to Indianapolis to live with his father so he could attend Arsenal Technical High School (1942–1946),[6][7] from which he graduated as valedictorian of his class.[4]

After serving for three years in the United States Army Air Forces, Indiana studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1949–1953), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (summer 1953) and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1953–1954).[7] He returned to the United States in 1954 and settled in New York City.[8]

In New York, Indiana's partner Ellsworth Kelly, whom he met in 1956, helped him find a loft on Coenties Slip.[4][9] On Coenties Slip he met neighboring artists like Jack Youngerman, Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly, with whom he shared his studio for a time.[4] In 1958 he changed his name to Indiana.[10]

Indiana's career took off in the early 1960s after Alfred H. Barr, Jr., bought The American Dream, I for the Museum of Modern Art.[11]

In 1964, Indiana moved from Coenties Slip to a five-story building at Spring Street and the Bowery.[12] In the summer of 1969, he visited Life magazine photographer Elliot Elisofon on the Island of Vinalhaven and began renting the upstairs of the 100 year old Victorian-style[13] Odd Fellows Hall named "The Star of Hope" in the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine.[13] Indiana was drawn to the Odd Fellows insignia which consists of three interlocking links.

“The three links of course are truth and friendship, and the important link in the middle just happens to be love.  So I think I was fated to end my life in an Odd Fellows Lodge” — Robert Indiana[14]

Half a century earlier, Marsden Hartley had made his escape to the same island.[13] Indiana discovered a great affinity to Marsden Hartley to whom he pays homage in a series of work in the late 1980s.[15] When Elisofon died in 1973, Indiana bought the lodge for $10,000 from his estate. He moved in full-time when he lost his lease on the Bowery in 1978.[16]

Indiana grew reclusive in his final years.[4] He died on May 19, 2018, at his home in Vinalhaven, Maine, of respiratory failure at the age of 89.[5] One day before his death, a lawsuit was filed over claims that his caretaker had isolated him from family and friends, and was marketing unauthorized reproductions of his works.[17]


Indiana’s complex and multilayered work explores the power of language, American identity, and personal history, and often consists of striking, simple and direct words. Drawing on the vocabulary of vernacular highway signs and roadside entertainments, Indiana created a body of work that appears bold and energetic.[18] His best known examples include short words like EAT, DIE, HUG, ERR, and LOVE.

In his EAT series, the word blares in paint or light bulbs against a neutral background.[13] In a major career milestone, the architect Philip Johnson commissioned an EAT sign for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair.[11] The sign was turned off one day after the opening of the fair because visitors believed it to mark a restaurant. Andy Warhol's contribution to the fair was also removed that day.[19][20]

Indiana’s series of monumental sculptures can be seen across the globe, including LOVE, Imperial LOVE, LOVE Wall, AHAVA, AMOR, and ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers).  Indiana’s own hard-edged painterly aesthetic paved the way for the later sculptural editions which would translate this into three dimensions.[15] In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Indiana created his series of Peace Paintings which were exhibited at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York in 2004.[21]

Between 1989 and 1994, Indiana painted a series of 18 canvases inspired by the shapes and numbers in the War Motif paintings that Marsden Hartley did in Berlin between 1913 and 1915.[22]

Indiana was also a theatrical set and costume designer; he designed Santa Fe Opera's 1976 production of Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All, based on the life of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.[23] He was the star of Andy Warhol's film Eat (1964), which is a 45-minute film of Indiana eating a mushroom.[24] Warhol also made the brief silent film Bob Indiana Etc. (4 minutes, 1963), a portrait of the artist with appearances by Wynn Chamberlain and John Giorno.[25]

Indiana's series of monumental sculptures of the digits zero through to nine, ONE Through ZERO (The Ten Numbers) has been displayed in several cities since its 1980 creation.[26]


1973 LOVE stamp

Indiana's best known image is the word love in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with its trademarked tilted letter "O".[27] The iconography first appeared in a series of poems originally written in 1958, in which Indiana stacked LO and VE on top of one another.[27] The first paintings addressing the subject of love were 4-Star Love (1961) and Love Is God (1964).[27][28]

The art historian Susan Elizabeth Ryan wrote that in 1964 LOVE had been a "more explicit four-letter word — beginning with F, and with a second letter, a U, intriguingly tilted to the right." Indiana and Kelly had been in a rocky relationship and Indiana had been working on word paintings. She adds "The two men were in the habit of exchanging postcard-size sketches, with Mr. Kelly laying down fields of color and Mr. Indiana adding large words atop the abstractions."[29][30]

Indiana’s red, blue, and green LOVE painting was then selected to appear on the Museum of Modern Art’s annual Christmas card in 1965. In an interview Robert Indiana said "It was the most profitable Christmas card the museum ever published."[31]

Indiana said he was inspired to use these colors because his father used to work at a Phillips 66 gas station whose colors were green and red. Robert Indiana described the original colors as "the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky". Still it is believed the colors were inspired also by the painting Red Blue Green (1963) of Ellsworth Kelly, his former partner.[32][9]

Indiana said, "Ellsworth Kelly introduced me to Hard-Edge and was a great influence on my work, and is responsible for my being here".[31]

The first serigraph/silk screen of LOVE was printed as part of an exhibition poster for Stable Gallery in 1966 on the occasion of Indiana’s show dedicated to his LOVE series .[33]

In 1973, the United States Postal Service commissioned a stamp design by Indiana and released the eight-cent LOVE stamp in advance of Valentine’s Day. Unveiled in a ceremony at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the stamp became so popular that 425 million were printed over the next two years.[34]

A close view of LOVE in Hebrew (Ahava אהבה) with two people, at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, taken in 2008

Hebrew version[edit]

In 1977, he created a Hebrew LOVE with the four-letter word Ahava (אהבה "love" in Hebrew) using Cor-Ten steel, for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem.[35]

Variation for Google[edit]

For Valentine's Day 2011, Google paid homage to Indiana’s LOVE, which was displayed in place of the search engine site's normal logo.[36]


In 1962, Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery hosted Robert Indiana's first New York solo exhibition.[37] Indiana’s work has been represented by Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City, Waddington Custot in London and Galerie Gmurzynska in Europe.[38]

From July 4 – September 14, 2008, Indiana's work was the subject of the grand multiple-location exhibition Robert Indiana a Milano; the main exhibition took place at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Pavilion of Contemporary Art), and other works were displayed in public piazzas in Milan.[39][40]

In 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a retrospective of his work entitled Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE, this exhibition traveled to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.[41]

The first retrospective of Indiana’s sculptures in the United Kingdom, spanning 60 years of the artist’s career, opened Yorkshire Sculpture Park on March 12, 2022 and runs through January 2023.[42]  

Appearances of his work in popular culture[edit]

Millions of television viewers saw an orange, brown, and white version of Five, one of Indiana's 1965 Numbers series, featured in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show during the 1971–1972 season, in which Rhoda Morgenstern redecorates Lou Grant's dated living room. Lou, evidently not a fan of pop art, complains to Mary, "I bet she went through four other paintings before choosing this one!"[43]

In 2014, ESPN released MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous, a short film in its 30 for 30 series of sports documentaries. It chronicles how Indiana's floor at the MECCA was saved from being sold for scrap.[44]


Today, Indiana's artworks are featured in the collections of numerous museums globally, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C. Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, Allentown, Pennsylvania; Williams College Museum of Art or WCMA, in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Brandeis Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Menil Collection, Houston; Tate Modern, London; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien), Vienna; Art Museum of Ontario, Toronto; and Israel Museum, Jerusalem. among many others.[45]

Art market[edit]

In May 2011, a 12-foot LOVE sculpture – one in an edition of three identical pieces – sold for $4.1 million.[13]


  1. ^ Ryan, Susan Elizabeth (2000). Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 203. ISBN 0300079575.
  2. ^ Haskell, Barbara (2013). Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. p. 245. ISBN 978-0300196863.
  3. ^ "Biography | Robert Indiana". Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jori Finkel (May 21, 2018), Robert Indiana, 89, Who Turned ‘Love’ Into Enduring Art, Is Dead New York Times.
  5. ^ a b Tanenbaum, Michael (May 21, 2018). "Robert Indiana, artist behind Philly's iconic LOVE sculpture, dies at 89". Obituary. Philly Voice. WWB Holdings, LLC.
  6. ^ "Arsenal Technical High School". Digital Lindy. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Biography: Robert Indiana". RobertIndiana. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  8. ^ "Robert Indiana". New York, NY: MoMA.
  9. ^ a b "The hidden message in Robert Indiana's Love | Art | Agenda". Phaidon. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  10. ^ "Robert Indiana".
  11. ^ a b Jesse McKinley (September 19, 2013). "An Artist's LOVE-Hate Relationship - Robert Indiana Assumes One Work Has Swamped His Career". New York Times.
  12. ^ "Robert Indiana – Mr. Love finds an island, if not entirely to himself". The New York Times. At Home With. February 6, 2003. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d e Ariella Budick (September 28, 2012). "Locating love in a chilly climate". Financial Times.
  14. ^ Indiana, Robert. Lecture in conjunction with the exhibition Wood Works: Constructions by Robert Indiana. Washington, D.C. May 3, 1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  15. ^ a b Lin-Hill, Joe (2019). Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective. Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber Verlag. p. 37. ISBN 978-3735604415.
  16. ^ Colman, David (February 6, 2003). "Mr. Love finds an island, if not entirely to himself". New York Times.
  17. ^ "Pop Art hero and artist of 'LOVE' Robert Indiana dies at 89". ArtNet News. May 21, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  18. ^ Haskell, Barbara (2013). Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. p. 11. ISBN 978-0300196863.
  19. ^ "Artist Robert Indiana is on the menu in Maine". Los Angeles Times. June 26, 2009.
  20. ^ "13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World's Fair at the Queens Museum". Observer. New York, NY: Observer Media. April 13, 2014.
  21. ^ Johnson, Ken (May 21, 2004). "Robert Indiana – 'Peace Paintings'". New York Times. Art in Review. New York, NY.
  22. ^ Glueck, Grace (August 27, 1999). "Robert Indiana's Career: Love and American Style". New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2014. Between 1989 and 1994, Mr. Indiana painted a series of 18 canvases inspired by the shapes and numbers in the war motifs paintings that Hartley – who once worked in Vinalhaven – did in Berlin between 1913–1915. They commemorate a slain German officer the artist had befriended.
  23. ^ "Robert Indiana: The Mother of Us All". Artsy. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  24. ^ Rubin, Joan S.; Boyer, Paul S.; Casper, Scott E. (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History. Oxford University Press. p. 728. ISBN 9780199764358.
  25. ^ "Who's-who of Warhol's unseen films". Brooklyn Academy of Music. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  26. ^ "Numbers One Through Zero, 1980-2001". Robert Indiana. Archived from the original on August 11, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  27. ^ a b c "LOVE". Scottsdale Public Art. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011.
  28. ^ "Selected Works | Robert Indiana". Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  29. ^ Ryan, Elizabeth (2000). Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech.
  30. ^ Sokol, Brett (May 23, 2018). "'LOVE' and Other Four-Letter Words". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  31. ^ a b "Robert Indiana on 50 Years of Art, and the Fraught Life of "LOVE"". Artspace. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  32. ^ "Red Blue Green, 1963 - Ellsworth Kelly -". Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  33. ^ Love and the American Dream: the art of Robert Indiana. p. 87.
  34. ^ Belmont Faries, “LOVE back for Valentine’s Day,” Boston Globe, January 27, 1974, p. A76
  35. ^ "AHAVA: Robert Indiana". Robert Indiana. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  36. ^ "Robert Indiana & Google wishes Happy Valentine's Day". Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  37. ^ "Robert Indiana, Love Sculptor New York". Hopeday. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  38. ^ "Robert Indiana". Paul Kasmin Gallery. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  39. ^ Robert Indiana: A Milano. Silvana Editoriale. January 2008.
  40. ^ "Tra pop e tipografia, Robert Indiana a Milano". Artsblog (in Italian). July 4, 2008.
  41. ^ Johnson, Ken (September 26, 2013). "Robert Indiana and 'Beyond Love' at the Whitney". New York Times. New York, NY.
  42. ^ Solomon, Tessa (December 8, 2021). "Major Retrospective of Robert Indiana's Sculptures to Open in England Next Spring". Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  43. ^ "The Square-Shaped Room". The Mary Tyler Moore Show. 1971.
  44. ^ "Mecca: The Floor that made Milwaukee famous". Grantland. July 11, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  45. ^ "Robert Indiana".

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