Robert Indiana didn’t invent love, but he did make the word synonymous with the pot-smoking, love-making, anti-war counterculture of the ’60s, which morphed into the museum-going, art-buying public of the ’80s. Today, Indiana’s LOVE sculpture—in English, Hebrew, and other languages, in varied scales, and in finishes from burnished Cor-ten steel to mirrored, polished stainless steel to bright colors—has beachheads in cities around the globe. Indiana has lived in Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Rockland, Maine, since 1978. His newest iconic sculpture is HOPE, linked to the Obama presidential campaign. Other new works, including EAT, ART, and numbers, were recently shown at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City.
Jan Garden Castro: In 2004, you told “CBS Sunday Morning” that the image for LOVE came from the red and green of the Phillips 66 sign where your father worked, seen against the blue of the Indiana sky. I’ve also read that LOVE began when MoMA asked you to design a Christmas card.
Robert Indiana: It didn’t really begin there, but that’s what set it into motion in full force. I did a painting a few years prior—four stars—two stacked on top of each other with the word LOVE at the bottom. When the museum asked me to do a love card, I simply decided to stack the letters. Then all hell broke loose. I did three color variations, and, of course, they chose the red, blue, and green.
The Electric EAT, 1964-2007.
Aluminum and lights, 78 x 78 x 7 in.