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Robert Indiana's aluminum, hand-cut and mirror-finished LOVE sculpture, consisting of a letter L and a tilted letter O on top of the letters V and E.

LOVE, 1966–1968. Photo: Courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Artwork: © Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

The “LOVE Sculpture” is the culmination of ten years of work based on the original premise that the word is an appropriated and usable element of art, just as Picasso and the Cubists made use of it at the beginning of the century, which evolved inevitably, in both my “LOVE” paintings and sculpture, into the concept that the word is also a fit and viable subject for art.

For me it was the drawing of a circle back to the beginnings of my known work, which were the wooden constructions that I started in the fifties. I thought of myself as a painter and a poet and became a sculptor because the raw materials were lying outside my studio door on the lower Manhattan waterfront. The old beams from the demolished warehouses cut down and sat upright as stelae had the breadth to bear just one word, such as “Moon” or “Orb,” “Soul” and “Mate,” as did some of my first word paintings, i.e. the diptych panels “Eat” and “Die,” but the sheer expanse of the wide canvases led to the proliferation of the word and whole passages and wheels of words appeared.

With “LOVE” it was back to the single word and also a return, after several years of paintings with the circle the dominant form, to the quartered canvas, or, in this case, structure. An earlier preoccupation, it is manifest in the Museum of Modern Art’s “American Dream,” which originally had no words, no numbers, no stars nor stripes, but four discs arranged on a structured field.

Here the quartered field is filled with the four letters of love, as compactly and economically as possible, but with my interest in the circle still called to mind by the tilted o.


Published in Art Now: New York 1 (March 1969)