Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana. His family relocated to Indianapolis, where he graduated from Arsenal Technical High School. He moved to New York City in 1954 and joined the pop art movement, using distinctive imagery drawing on commercial art approaches blended with existentialism, that gradually moved toward what Indiana calls “sculptural poems”.
In 1962, Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery hosted Robert Indiana’s first New York solo exhibition. He has since enjoyed solo exhibitions at over 30 museums and galleries worldwide. Indiana’s works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam, The Netherlands; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Brandeis Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts; Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the Los Angeles County Museum, California, among many many others.
Indiana’s work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like EAT, HUG, and, his best known example, LOVE. Ahava (אהבה “love” in Hebrew), Cor-ten steel sculpture by Robert Indiana (American), 1977, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Indiana’s iconic work LOVE was first created for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964 and later was included on an eight-cent United States Postal Service postage stamp in 1973, the first of their regular series of “love stamps.” Sculptural versions of the image have been installed at numerous American and international locations. In 1977 he created a Hebrew version with the four letter word Ahava (אהבה “love” in Hebrew) using Cor-ten steel, for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem, Israel.
In 2008, Indiana created an image similar to his iconic LOVE (letters stacked two to a line, the letter “o” tilted on its side), but this time showcasing the word “HOPE,” and donated all proceeds from the sale of reproductions of his image to Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Raising in excess of $1,000,000. A stainless steel sculpture of HOPE was unveiled outside Denver’s Pepsi Center during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The Obama campaign sold T-shirts, pins, bumper stickers, posters, pins and other items adorned with HOPE. Editions of the sculpture have been released and sold internationally and the artist himself has called HOPE “Love’s close relative”.
Other well-known works by Indiana including: his painting the unique basketball court formerly used by the Milwaukee Bucks in that city’s U.S. Cellular 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), uses 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.
Indiana has lived as a resident in the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine since 1978. 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 in his SoHo loft.