Thursday Salute to Originals: Four Simple Steel Letters

In our Thursday Salutes, we always enjoy highlighting conceptual art in many forms. Often we gravitate towards featuring an artist who flies slightly under the radar or an emerging technology just taking hold of the design world. Today we salute an art piece that has been viewed so many times, it has become more of a logo to be consumed than an art installation to be interpreted. How much do you know about the stories connected with the iconic “Love” sculpture?

Love Sculpture Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana’s “Love” art piece consists of simply those four letters rendered in red COR-TEN steel. The original has stood at its home at the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1970 and has recently undergone an overhaul to reinforce its structural integrity. During the structural updates, the patina was blasted off with a fine air cleaning and will undergo the natural weathering process yet again, so the colors will transform over the next few years and slowly return to its iconic brown.

The “Love” image is so well recognized that many feel a sense of ownership connected with it. Now taking on new lives in postage stamps, album covers, and duplicate sculptures in other cities, the image is distributed and consumed with much emotion. Just last month, artist Robert Indiana won a lawsuit involving claims that he had authenticated Hindi reproductions of the sculpture; Indiana regarded those reproductions as knock-offs and claims he never authenticated them.  Because he didn’t want to clutter the original design with a signature or copyright symbol (a respectable design move), Indiana was left vulnerable to these replications.

Love Stamp Graphic Icon

Four simple letters, built in steel, gracing Indianapolis since 1970 – sounds unassuming and not normally what you would consider overtly “original”. But while familiar in terms of both iconic recognition and vocabulary, the path these four simple letters have taken in carving their place in history makes the “Love” sculpture something truly one of a kind.

As Hallmark might say, how will your love make its mark this Valentine’s day? Really though, we are curious what you think of Robert Indiana’s approach to the creation process, it seems to be a self-sacrificing labor of love.

Image credits: cohodas208c via Flickr, Superfly Gallery