Robert Indiana's LOVE Restored

Some people like to paint trees. I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than trees.
– Robert Indiana (1928-2018)

 

One of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures is going to be back on display at Rockefeller Center next week. There are more than fifty versions of LOVE on display around the world, in several languages. It is truly iconic and has touched people across the globe, but is just a small part of his oeuvre.

 

Indiana was adopted by a family that practiced Christian Science. He saw the phrase God is Love on the front wall of each church they attended. When his friend, art collector, Larry Aldrich, decided to convert a former Christian Science church into an art gallery, he asked Indiana to help. The project was the impetus for the creation of the iconic LOVE design.

 

“The LOVE paintings sprang like a crop from that seed planted at your museum, Larry,” Indiana wrote in a letter to Aldrich, “the painting you commissioned, Love is God, which burst into mind when I learned that you were converting an old Christian Science Church in Ridgefield . . . for I, as a child, was raised as a Christian Scientist, and the word LOVE was indelibly imprinted in the mind, for there is that slightly different phrase, ‘God is Love,' on every front wall of every one of Mary Baker Eddy’s houses throughout the world.”

 

Indiana began to use LOVE on paintings, drawings and prints. In 1965 the Museum of Modern Art used a green, red and blue screenprint of LOVE for their Christmas card. It became the museum’s most popular card. The first LOVE sculpture was created in 1970. and in 1973 the United States Postal Service issued the first LOVE  stamp.

 

Indian used the same simplicity of color and design for much of his works. He often created series of works, thoughtful and meaningful; often tributes to people and ideas.

 

When Indiana discovered that American artist Marsden Hartley (1877-1946) had spent some time living and working near Indiana’s home in Vinalhaven, Maine, he began to study Hartley’s life and work.

 

As a result, Indiana created a series called The Hartley Elegies. Works from the series are available at Surovek Gallery. They focus on paintings that Hartley did in memory of Prussian lieutenant Karl von Freyburg, whom Hartley had met while living and working in Berlin in 1913 and who was killed at the start of World War l. Indiana’s works are a tribute to both the artist and the soldier.

 

Works from the Peace Paintings series that Indiana created in response to 9/11 have been turned into 193 flags, which will be displayed around the rink at Rockefeller Plaza.  The LOVE sculpture was removed for conservation in 2019, where it sat at the entrance to Central Park. It will be on display at Rockefeller Plaza from September 13 through October 24, 2023.

 


 

References:

New York, New York. Rockefeller Center, in Partnership with the Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, Announces an Installation of Works by Indiana from September 13 through October 24. July 25, 2023.

Aidan Graham. Iconic “LOVE” Sculpture to Return to NYC at Rockefeller Center, Along with Other Robert Indiana Work. amNY. July 14, 2023.

Kelly Richman-Abdou. The Surprisingly Heart-Wrenching History of Robert Indiana’s ‘LOVE’ Sculptures. My Modern Met. January 4, 2023.

September 8, 2023
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