13: Robert Indiana, Love, 1966-99
LOVE, 1966-99. Polychrome aluminium. 243 × 243 × 121.9 cm (95 5/8 × 95 5/8 × 47 7/8 in). Stamped with signature and date ‘1966–1999 R INDIANA’ and numbered of 5. This work is from an edition of 5 plus 2 artist’s proofs. Conceived in 1966 and executed in 1999.
PROVENANCE Private Collection, Belgium
LITERATURE This work will be included in the forthcoming Robert Indiana catalogue raisonné being prepared by Simon Salama-Caro
“Some people like to paint trees. I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees.” ROBERT INDIANA Commonly associated with the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana is considered to be one of the most prominent and influential Pop artists to have emerged in America in the 1960s. His work has always been conceptually distinctive. While his contemporaries were concerned with the mass-media, pop-culture and its icons, Indiana’s work has been more personal, dealing with subjects of American nationhood, American life and cultural identity. The present lot is one of Indiana’s most important works. It was conceived in 1966 and executed in 1999. While Indiana uses his LOVE motif in a variety of materials, sizes, arrangements and configurations, the LOVE sculpture, in particular, is a seminal work. The current lot is a particularly important example, as its hard-edged, stencil like lines are rendered in the classic original Indiana colours – these reference the influence of his friend and contemporary Ellsworth Kelly but also stemming from his childhood memories. Indiana explained: “Most of my work is very autobiographical in one way or another. In the thirties my father worked at Phillips 66, when all Phillips 66 gas stations were red and green: the pumps, the uniforms, the oil cans…But when I was a kid, my mother used to drive my father to work in Indianapolis, and I would see practically everyday of my young life, a huge Phillips 66 sign. So it is the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky. The blue in the LOVE is cerulean. Therefore my LOVE is a homage to my father” (Susan Elisabeth Ryan, Robert Indiana Figures of Speech, New Haven and London, 2000, p. 206). LOVE is an expression of poetry and myth, identity and memory but it also has become one of the most influential global motifs and phenomena of Post-War America. Indiana came to New York in 1954, when the art scene was still dominated by the movements of Abstract Expressionism and formalist criticism. However, Indiana found it difficult to find his place in this environment. The new culture of consumerism, mass-media and advertising created a society that became more and more object and sign-oriented. This led to Indiana’s self-proclamation of being a “painter of signs”. Although figurative at the beginning, Indiana’s work quickly became more and more abstract. He began to create assemblages and worked on stencilled paintings referencing his friends Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin, and focussed letters and numbers as symbols and conveyors of meaning. In LOVE, the word ‘love’ is dissected into its four component letters and arranged around a cruciform axis, a recurrent configuration in Indiana’s designs. On the one hand the sculpture exerts a massive, almost threatening presence. On the other hand the viewer is confronted by the blunt statement LOVE, what the word ‘love’ symbolically stands for and by the subtle physicality of the letters touching. Indiana takes this further by tilting the O forward in a way that it threatens to fall off the supporting E and destroying the entire structure. Thus the vulnerability of love is suggested the fragility of the geometric composition.