Robert Indiana - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the artist; Morgan Art Foundation, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    I have always thought of my work as being celebratory.


    (Robert Indiana: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-2003, London 2004, p. 4)

    In response to the question, “Is America Pop?” Robert Indiana replied, “America is at the core of every Pop Work. British Pop, the first born, came about due to the influence of America. The generating issue is Americanism [sic], that phenomenon that is sweeping every content...For this is the best of all possible worlds.” Through adopting the name of his birth state, Indiana affirmed his staunch Americanism with his chosen pseudonym. This devotion is most fully realized through his “signs,” which were inspired by the lavish supply of new commodities, advertising icons, and new waves of global culture brought on by the Pop generation of the 1960s.

    One photo in particular, taken in 1965 outside Indiana’s New York Studio on 25 Coenties Slip, captures a culture buzzing with innovative signage, surrounding the artist and his generation. The image depicts the young artist in the doorway of a New York building adorned with huge letters that read: ARTICLES, RADIOS, JEWELRY, CAMERAS. The interplay of Indiana and these texts reveals a stage upon which advertisements become fortuitous poetry. Here, signage seems to conceal hidden messages, and the artist discovers his fascination.

    “Indiana’s art corroborates this new reliance on street and highway signage, and on its chance poetry, on the endless flux or urban messages that ceaselessly buzz in front of our eyes and brain, and on its powerful visual fascination – which these signs seem to gradually lose their referential meaning, although never quite completely (J. Pissarro, “Signs into Art,” Robert Indiana, New York 2006, p. 59).

    Within the sea of words that has come to define his career, LOVE emerges as the seminal example of Robert Indiana’s body of work. Constructed of various layers, both materially and conceptually, it intertwines themes and images, celebrating both craft and meaning. The word “love” is reduced to the mere shape of its letters, yet its enormous three-dimensionality demands great attention and delivers an intense impact on its viewers. The present lot measures eight feet high and weighs 600 lbs; its sheer monumentality bursts beyond the deceptively simple confines of this particular four-letter word. Despite the statue’s immensity, which conveys an overwhelming curative power, we are reminded of the fragility of the subject; as the “O” tilts to the right, we see the marked instability and imperfect nature of our most essential quality as human beings. In the end, Indiana confronts us with a paradox of coexisting strengths and weaknesses.

    “The reason I became so involved in LOVE is that it is so much a part of the peculiar American environment, particularly in my own background, which was Christian Scientist. God Is Love is spelled out in every church.” (B. Raynor, “The Man Who Invented Love,” Art News, no. 2, February 1973, p. 60). The first incarnation of LOVE appeared on a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1974. From there it was included on an eight-cent United States Postal Service stamp in 1973 becoming the first in the series of “love stamps.” It later became a silkscreen to mark the opening at an exhibition for Stable Gallery, and finally appeared as its sculptural manifestation. Its continuous evolution, while greatly inspired by mass media and consumer culture, is a testament to the artist’s devotion to national and cultural identity. And, despite its various forms, LOVE has remained an icon for every generation.

    In Indiana’s own words, “I am very much impressed and I have always been impressed how with a little concentration and a little mental exercise, if one concentrates long enough on a word or figure, it’s very easy to lose the conscious grasp of what that is, and one can look at a word, after concentrating on it for a while, one has almost forgotten what that word is. And I should like in a way this to be a part of my work too” (Robert Indiana: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-2003, London 2004, p. 12).

Ο ◆27


Polychrome aluminum.
96 x 96 x 48 in. (243 x 243 cm.)
Stamped “© 1966 -1999 Robert Indiana” and numbered of five. This work is from an edition of five plus two artist’s proofs.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,314,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York