Robert Indiana a towering figure in the American Pop art movement whose LOVE sculpture became one of the most reproduced works of art of the Modern era, has died at the age of 89.
Indiana, whose real last name was Clark, was already enjoying critical and market success when he debuted his LOVE series at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1964. That same year, Indiana’s work was shown alongside that of Andy Warhole at the World’s Fair in Queens.
But that simple, four-letter sculpture would go on to overshadow the rest of the artist’s oeuvre and prompted some critics to dismiss him as a one-trick pony. Indeed, the fact that this image made him world-famous was something of a double-edged sword. While LOVE was reproduced on 330 million postage stamps, allowing Indiana’s art to travel the world, it was also reconfigured in countless other forms that he never authorized—or profited from.
His lawyer told the new yourk times that Indiana died on Saturday of respiratory failure. Just one day earlier, a company that had worked with Indiana for years filed a lawsuit against a competing art seller and the artist’s caretaker for allegedly isolating the artist and producing unauthorized reproductions of his work.
Despite the ubiquity of his most famous image, Indiana has been an elusive figure in the art world for decades. In 1978, disillusioned with the New York art world—and the harsh and unfavorable reviews he was receiving—he retreated to Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine, which is only reachable via an hour-long ferry ride.
Indiana’s fortunes began to change in the past two decades, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of his art dealers. A wave of exhibitions helped broaden the public’s understanding of Indiana’s work, which included far darker interpretations of the American dream. In the 1960s, he created diamond-shaped paintings with the words “Eat” or “Die,” as well as works inspired by the Civil Rights movement.
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