Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark; September 13, 1928 – May 19, 2018) was an American artist and one of the leading figures of the Pop Art movement. His bold, simple, and bright graphic style had a major influence on contemporary visual culture.
Born in New Castle, Indiana, Robert Clark adopted his home state’s name as his pseudonym when he moved to New York City in 1954. He grew up in a financially insecure household during the Great Depression, moving 21 times by the time he was 17. His upbringing instilled in him a love for Americana, as well as a sense of longing and displacement, which were themes that would later permeate his work.
Indiana studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1949–1953), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (1953) and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1953–1954). He settled in New York City’s Coenties Slip, a downtown community of artists which included peers such as Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin.
Robert Indiana is most renowned for his “LOVE” series, which started in the 1960s with the iconic LOVE painting. The design features the word “LOVE” in uppercase letters, arranged in a square with a tilted “O”. It became a symbol of 1960s idealism and was subsequently translated into a United States postage stamp in 1973, as well as sculptures in multiple languages and materials, exhibited around the world.
In addition to his “LOVE” series, Indiana created numerous works that combined bold typography with short, often emotionally charged phrases, reflecting on themes such as identity, death, and the American Dream. His distinctive artistic style — brash, colorful, and impactful — is immediately recognizable and continues to be influential.
Later in his life, Indiana lived and worked in the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine, where he continued to create artworks that engaged with personal history, national identity, and the power of language.
Robert Indiana’s work is held in numerous major collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Despite the ubiquitousness of his “LOVE” design, Indiana spent much of his career underappreciated by the art establishment, a condition he referred to as being “the most famous unknown artist.”
Indiana passed away at his home in Vinalhaven in 2018, leaving behind a powerful legacy in both Pop Art and the wider world of contemporary art.