The American Love, 1975

Robert Indiana: “American Painter of Signs”

Robert Indiana is without a doubt one of the most recognized artists in American modern art today. He is most famous for his “LOVE” pop art sculptures that can be found in many languages and variations throughout the world.

The Beginning

Robert Indiana was born Robert Earl Clark on September 13, 1928, in New Castle, Indiana. He was adopted by parents, who unfortunately did not provide a very stable household. He spent his early childhood in Indiana, in the Indianapolis area. Robert Clark, who later changed his last name to “Indiana”, attended the Arsenal Technical HS in Indianapolis. The art teachers at that school were also professional artists and had a great deal of influence on him as a young man.

Education

Indiana went on to study at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and the Munson, Williams, Proctor Institute in Utica, New York. He then enrolled at the famed School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he studied various printmaking techniques and received a degree in 1953. During this time, Robert was recognized as an emerging talent and was awarded a fellowship to Europe. In 1954, he attended Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.

When he returned to the United States in 1954, he moved to New York City. In 1958 he changed his last name to Indiana; what he referred to as his “nom de brush”. A name that paid homage to his roots in the State of Indiana.

Famous Works

In 1961, Robert Indiana began producing a series of paintings with a bold sense of graphic design. It was almost as if Indiana had taken a page from American advertising.

The American Love, 1975

His work presented strong images combined with stenciled text, numbers, and high contrast colors. The artwork seemed “commercial” in nature but still embraced the spirit of the ‘60s American Pop Art movement. Indiana’s affinity for graphic designs led him to using a variety of text. As his style evolved artistically, so did his iconic “signs”.

In fact, Indiana began referring to himself as “America’s Sign Painter” with a unique distinction. Indiana once said, “There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS.”

Indiana used the words “EAT”, “DIE”, “LOVE” and later “HOPE” in his artwork. He artfully rendered their simple text characters with bold, vivid colors and block letters.

In 1966, his exposition at the Stable Gallery in New York City featured the LOVE series. This iconic work has since become one of the most recognizable works in American Pop Art. Although nowadays many mainstream artists reproduce images, text, and symbols of popular culture, Indiana created his own icon with “LOVE”. This distinction set him apart.

Robert Indiana - Untitled from One Cent Life

Indiana prolifically produced “LOVE” in a myriad of mediums. LOVE was commissioned by NYC’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to create a Christmas Card in 1967. On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1973, the U.S. Postal Service issued Indiana’s design as a commemorative stamp.

Art Reproduction Mediums

Over the past 50 years, Robert Indiana’s LOVE has been produced in a variety of mediums. It can be seen as a painting, screenprint, or a vast series of sculptures in many sizes. Indiana created well over 50 editions of the LOVE sculpture. These works can be found today in respected museums and public settings throughout the world.

Very few artists have been able to replicate variations of their work as Robert Indiana. That’s why there is an ever-vibrant market for his art in all its mediums.

As an example, here are the results of numerous fine art auctions and the mediums employed:

  • Phillips Auction – Skein dyed, hand carved and hand tufted archival New Zealand woolen rug, with natural latex backing
  • Sotheby’s Auction – Aluminum
  • Dane Fine Art – Silkscreen on Paper
  • Bonham’s – Hand Woven Wool
  • Christie’s Online – Brushed Aluminum
  • Kunsthaus Lempertz – Aluminum with Steel Plinth
  • Sotheby’s London – Polychromed Aluminum
  • Dane Fine Art – HOPE Silkscreen on Canvas
  • Christie’s Auction – Cor-ten Steel
  • Sotheby’s Paris – Acrylic and Silkscreen Ink / Canvas

Love Cross, 1968

You can find LOVE in the City of Brotherly Love, and the home of Dane Fine Art, Philadelphia. You can also find LOVE in the world’s most important museums and public spaces of New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington DC, London, Berlin, Lisbon, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tokyo, Singapore, and Taipei.

In Jerusalem, you can find LOVE spelled in Hebrew, אהבה.

In Milan, (and Washington DC) you can find LOVE spelled in Italian, AMOR.

While these pieces differ in color palette and scale, they all bear the iconic thumbprint of Indiana’s unique signature and style. Even when his artwork is written in another language or spells out different words like, “HOPE” or “2020”, they are immediately identifiable as Robert Indiana, America’s Painter of Signs.

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