Robert Indiana, Creator of Iconic ‘LOVE’ Series, Has Died

The increasingly reclusive artist, whose stacked LOVE design became one of the 20th century’s most reproduced images, has passed away

LOVE stamp, 1973, designed by Robert Indiana. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

LOVE stamp, 1973, designed by Robert Indiana. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

LOVE stamp, 1973, designed by Robert Indiana. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The American pop artist Robert Indiana, whose 1960s LOVE series achieved iconic status, has died on Vinalhaven Island, Maine, at the age of 89. Indiana is best known for his treatment of the world ‘love’, in which an L and slanted O rest on top of the V and E – it became a world-famous image which, despite trying to move away from, overshadowed his career.

Indiana’s LOVE design was conceived in 1962; it was later used as a 1965 holiday card by MoMA, before being turned into a stamp by the United States Postal Service in 1973. Since then it has been endlessly reproduced as prints, paintings and sculptures, as well as numerous unauthorized editions (the artist failed to copyright the design), appearing on anything from posters and keyrings to coasters and T-shirts. Indiana himself said that it was the 20th century’s ‘most plagiarized work of art’ and even kept his own collection of unauthorized reproductions in his home.

Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana in 1928, the artist studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York in 1954. There he became lovers with Ellsworth Kelly and based himself in Coenties Slip, Lower Manhattan, where he encountered artists including Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly. It was at this time that Indiana began to appropriate stencils used in ship decoration for his own artworks, and made freestanding wooden monuments which he called ‘herms’ (drawing on the classical Greek structures built to ward off evil spirits).

Indiana’s first major career break came when the Museum of Modern Art included this work in its 1961 exhibition ‘Art of Assemblage’, going on to purchase his painting The American Dream #1 (1961) the following year – the same year Indiana had his first solo show, at the Stable Gallery, New York.

The artist had grown reclusive in his later years, leaving for Maine in 1978 after tiring of the New York art scene (his retropective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013, was pointedly titled ‘Beyond LOVE’). There were concerns after friends had not heard from him recently. One friend, Kathleen Rogers, told AP that she had asked the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to look into Indiana six to eight weeks ago, after she had not heard from him.

One day before his death, a licensing company which had worked with Indiana, filed a lawsuit against an art dealer and Indiana’s caretaker claiming they had isolated him and were creating unauthorized reproductions of his artworks. The Morgan Art Foundation alleged that American Image Art had exploited a ‘bedridden and infirm’ artist while selling forgeries. American Image Art’s founder has rejected the claims.

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018