Robert Indiana, born Robert Clark (born September 13, 1928), is an American artist associated with the pop art movement. His “LOVE” print, first created for the Museum of Modern Art’s Christmas card in 1965, was the basis for the widely distributed 1973 United States Postal Service “LOVE” stamp. His media include paper (silk screen) and Cor-ten steel sculpture.
Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana. He spent the first 17 years of his life living in Indiana moving frequently between cities and eventually lived in 21 different homes. After his parents divorced, he relocated to Indianapolis to live with his father so he could attend Arsenal Technical High School (1942–46).
After serving for three years in the United States Army Air Forces, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1949–53), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (summer 1953) and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1953–54). He returned to America in 1954 and settled in New York City. There he began making art with his distinctive “hard edge” style.
Indiana’s work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like EAT, HUG, and, his best known example, LOVE. In his EAT series, the word blares in paint or light bulbs against a neutral background; he regularly paired “EAT” with “DIE”. In a major career milestone, the architect Philip Johnson commissioned an EAT sign for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The sign was turned off one day after the opening of the fair because visitors believed it to mark a restaurant. Andy Warhol’s contribution to the fair was also removed that day. Other well-known works by Indiana include: his painting the unique basketball court formerly used by the Milwaukee Bucks in that city’s MECCA Arena, with a large M shape taking up each half of the court; his sculpture in the lobby of Taipei 101, called 1-0 (2002, aluminum), using multicoloured numbers to suggest the conduct of world trade and the patterns of human life; and the works he created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and exhibited in New York in 2004 called the Peace Paintings.
Between 1989 and 1994, Indiana painted a series of 18 canvases inspired by the shapes and numbers in the war motifs paintings that Marsden Hartley did in Berlin between 1913–15.
Indiana has been a theatrical set and costume designer, such as the 1976 production by the Santa Fe Opera of Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All, based on the life of suffragist Susan B. Anthony. He was the star of Andy Warhol’s film Eat (1964), which is a 45-minute film of Indiana eating a mushroom. Warhol also made the brief silent film Bob Indiana Etc. (4 minutes, 1963), a portrait of the artist with appearances by Wynn Chamberlain and John Giorno.
In 1964, Indiana moved from Coenties Slip to a five-story building at Spring Street and the Bowery. In 1969, he began renting the upstairs of the mansarded Victorian-style Odd Fellows Hall named “The Star of Hope” in the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine, as a seasonal studio from the photographer Eliot Elisofon. Half a century earlier, Marsden Hartley had made his escape to the same island. When Elisofon died in 1973, Indiana bought the lodge for $10,000 from his estate. He moved in full-time when he lost his lease on the Bowery in 1978. Since 1978, he has lived as a resident of Vinalhaven.