Robert Indiana


Robert Indiana Biography

B. 1928 - 2018


Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark) is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker closely associated with the pop art movement. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art. In 1954, the artist moved to New York City where he began assembling wood sculptures from found materials, often stenciling painted words onto them. He called himself a sign painter, incorporating symbols, signs, letters and words throughout his art. Indiana’s work has been inspired by old trade names, traffic signs and commercial stencils. As his work began to gain recognition, Indiana changed his surname in 1958, in order to avoid confusion with other artists carrying the same last name.

In the early 1960’s, Indiana focused on short, terse words that reflected the quadrants of the human condition. These words were eat, die, hug, love, and later, hope; words which would define his work. His first step toward international recognition came in May of 1961, when Alfred Barr, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, saw his work in a gallery exhibition and purchased Indiana’s painting The American Dream, I. Indiana was part of a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art later that year, and his career took off.

One of Indiana’s most iconic works is a sculpture titled LOVE. The sculpture is based on three small paintings with the same title, which were first created for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964. The paintings depicted the word “love” in red, blue and green and became the most popular card MoMA has ever published. The image consists of the letters LO and VE stacked on top of one another, with the letter O tilted to the right. Conceived in a time when the United States was consumed by the Vietnam War, LOVE became a symbol of peace. The original three-dimensional version of LOVE is made of Corten steel and belongs to the permanent collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1970. This famous sculpture is one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement as well as the art world as a whole. In 1973, the image was put on an eight-cent US Postal Service postage stamp and was the first of their regular series of “love stamps”. The image has been rendered countless times and recreated in multiple versions and a variety of colors. While it was originally made in English, versions of the sculpture exist in Hebrew, Chinese, Italian and Spanish. It is by far Indiana’s best known work and has come to be regarded as the emblem for the hippie generation of the late 1960s.

In 1970, he received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as one in 1977 from the University of Indiana, and another from Colby College in 1981. Indiana’s art has been on view at such museums as The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; the Walker Art Center; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C,; Royal Academy of Arts, London, England and numerous other museums around the world. In his current work, Indiana utilizes the word hope in the same manner he used love, with the wish that HOPE will be an icon for this generation as LOVE was for past generations.