NYC retrospective reassesses LOVE artist's work

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm •  Published: September 26, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — Artist Robert Indiana says love hurt him.

Love, as in his world-famous LOVE image — stacked letters with a tilted O — that became a symbol of the "make love, not war" 1960s counterculture revolution.

That one image eclipsed all his other work. But now the artist's first major retrospective titled "Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE" at the Whitney Museum of American Art that opened Thursday could change that.

"It's a dream come true, a little late," Indiana, who turned 85 this month, said in an interview at the museum this week surrounded by 95 works he created over the past five decades.

The image both "blessed and cursed" him, said Barbara Haskell, the exhibition's curator. It's so famous and so ubiquitous — reproduced on everything from coffee cups to T-shirts without Indiana's permission — that "it has obscured the depth and breadth of everything else he did."

His paintings and sculptures are filled with images of highway signs, roulette wheels, circles, stars within circles, numbers and simple words — Eat, Die, Hug.

"The subtext of what he does is very profound. He really touches on issues of survival, forgiveness, love and racial injustice," Haskell said.

Indiana, who sat in a wheelchair but mostly uses a cane, said a favorite piece in the show is his monumental diptych EAT/DIE, an homage to his mother whose dying words to him were "Have you had enough to eat?" he said.

Born Robert Clark in 1928, Indiana changed his name in 1958 in honor of his home state. He was closely associated with the leading pop artists of the 1960s and first received acclaim when Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, purchased his "American Dream 1" in 1961.

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