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Robert
Indiana

Immortalised in his now-internationally recognisable LOVE sculptures, Robert Indiana’s artwork looks at American culture and advertisement through the lens of early Pop Art. Interested in buying or selling an Indiana original print and edition? Browse artworks from the artist's portfolio and enquire today. We provide print value advice and market consultancy, with zero obligation to sell.

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Biography

Inspired by Pop Art, advertisement and the visuals of American life in the 1960s, Robert Indiana is an artist best known for his exploration of American culture through the use of language and commercially inspired designs, as well as being a key figure in the development of assemblage art and sculpture.

Born in New Castle, Indiana in 1928 as Robert Clark, Indiana spent most of his childhood moving around his namesake state. After serving three years in the United States Air Force, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago until 1953, followed by the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and then Edinburgh College of Art from 1953-54. He then returned to the United States in 1954 to settle in New York.

The Pop artist changed his name to Indiana in 1958, acknowledging his roots in the American Midwest. This was reflected in his work’s shift away from the figurative painting, typical of his art school years, to the more commercial imagery that his paintings adopted in the 1960s and have become emblematic of Indiana's art.

Indiana’s major artistic success was in the early 1960s, following the purchase of American Dream 1 (1960-61) by Alfred Barr Jr for the New York MoMA. This painting depicts four circles, stacked two on top of two, each of which contains a star and a combination of text and numbers. The vivid colours and repeated geometric imagery did much to establish Indiana’s signature commercial ‘Pop’ style and indeed this four-circle template has been returned to by the artist many times throughout his career, creating multiple variations of the American Dream. Indiana’s work was also featured in a number of influential New York shows during this period which solidified his reputation as a key emerging creative artist.

The most famous of Indiana’s works is his LOVE project, with few Pop images being more widely recognised. This distinct iconography of Indiana art, with the letters ‘L’ and a slightly tilted ‘O’ stacked on top of the ‘V’ and ‘E’ originally appeared in a series of poems written in 1958. An image that has become a quintessential Indiana artwork, and which has since reappeared across his oeuvre.

His LOVE iconography was featured in works such as 4-STAR LOVE (1961) and the MOMA commissioned Christmas card of 1965, which first contributed to its wide distribution. This iconic Indiana work was also made into a large-scale polychrome aluminium sculpture, which reiterated Indiana’s interest in the use of the written word as a viable artistic element. Speaking on this phenomenon, Indiana stated 'oddly enough, I wasn’t thinking at all about anticipating the love generation and hippies. It was a spiritual concept. It isn’t a sculpture of love any longer, it’s become the very image of love itself.'

The Great American LOVE (love wall) by Robert Indiana

Image © Sotheby's / The Great American LOVE (love wall) © Robert Indiana 1972

1. £2.7M for Robert Indiana's The Great American Love (Love Wall)

The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) was sold at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York, on November 14th, 2018. It had been previously acquired by the seller from a Christie’s auction in 2005. This four-panel oil painting from 1972 is instantly recognisable for Robert Indiana’s use of bold typographic design, monochrome colour palette and signature Love motif. The word first appeared in the artist’s oeuvre in 1966, and quickly gained him national appeal given its resonance with countercultural movements at the time.

In this characteristic painting, Indiana explores the relationship between colour and the written word in a geometrical composition of white serif letters against a bright blue and lively red background, referencing the colours in the American flag. The artist creates an intriguing visual interplay between positive and negative spaces in the image through the use of primary colour blocks. The Great American LOVE (Love Wall) also draws on Pop Art in its precise and mechanical execution, graphic style and sign-like effect, recalling both Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha. Indiana erects a timeless monument to the universal concept of love.

Love 1967 by Robert Indiana

Image © Sotheby's / Love 1967 © Robert Indiana 1967

2. £2.7M for Robert Indiana's Love

Robert Indiana’s Love from 1967 sold at Sotheby’s New York, Contemporary Art Evening Auction on November 14th, 2018. The large-scale, bright blue canvas with four, hard-edged red letters spelling the word “love” is an iconic example of Indiana’s oeuvre, which played a pivotal role in the development of assemblage art and hard-edge painting.

The Love motif first appeared in his works in 1966, and was widely distributed through the United States Postal Service "LOVE" stamp in 1973, instantly popular due to the ongoing hippie movement. Spanning a range of underlying meanings, from the erotic, religious, political and autobiographical, Love’s power lies in its straddling of the simple and the complex.

Love Red-Blue by Robert Indiana

Image © Christie's / Love Red-Blue © Robert Indiana 1990

3. £2.5M for Robert Indiana's Love Red-Blue (1990)

Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE works – which span paintings, prints and sculptures – have by now become emblematic of American Pop culture. Since the first work appeared on the art scene in 1966, Indiana’s LOVE has taken over the entire world and the global art market. It is therefore no surprise that his 1990 painted aluminium Love Red/Blue sculpture holds the title for the most expensive Indiana work ever sold in US dollars.

The sculpture, part of a series of 3, was unveiled at Christie’s New York on 12 May 2011 on the occasion of their “Post-War and Contemporary Art Featuring Property from an Important Private European Collection Afternoon Session”, and fetched a whopping USD 4,114,500 (almost £3.4 million). Strikingly simple and direct, Indiana described Love Red/Blue as a “verbal-visual act” that explores the relationship between written and visual language.

A pioneer of Pop Art and hard-edge painting, Indiana explores the relationship between text, meaning and colour through this pivotal series. In Love Red/Blue, the letters are coated in shiny red and blue, created in the same scale and dual colour as the famous Love sculpture in New York's 6th Avenue and 55th Street. The word” love” is connected to the artist’s childhood memories at a Christian Science church, where he saw the inscription "God is Love" on the wall. The motif later came to embody the spirit of the 1960s hippie movements alongside other political, religious, erotic and autobiographical connotations.

Love by Robert Indiana

Image © Christie's / Love © Robert Indiana 1966