On 55th Street lies an artistic icon. Some take photos or selfies with it, others climb it, and dogs curiously sniff it, discovering all types of residual scents from the sculpture’s surrounding. Its massive body has graced New York City for over four decades and the phenomenon seemed to take over the world. If you have ever walked Sixth Avenue or are very familiar with the area, you probably already know what art piece I’m describing… the LOVE Sculpture.
I grew up with this signage of the word “love”; it was like an anonymous signature. I had no idea who created it or that it was even an expression of art. My young mind conveyed it as a simple font like the ones I saw on my computer screen, the one for the infamous TIME magazine, or the types that I saw off of billboards and labels. Little did I know just how poetic each letter is. How loved it was by popular reception. Or how misunderstood, despised, bastardized, plagiarized, and ultimately ambiguous it soon became. Natural selections took its course, to the point where its origin became unknown to the following generations. But the LOVE sculpture/painting/print was curated by a famously unfamous “pop” artist, Robert Indiana.
According to Mental Floss, Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark on September 13, 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. He was a child of the silent generation and witnessed the struggles of the Great Depression. His father lost his job and the family was much akin to gypsies, going from living in Indiana to a variety of other locations. The family moved over twenty times partly due to the recession and his mother’s inability to stay in the same place for too long. Clark once described his childhood as the family car being “… more stable than home itself”. The factors put a strain on the family and Clark’s parents divorced in the 1940’s. Clark lived with his father and was able attend high school. Clark then joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in cooperation with the GI Bill in order to pay for his education. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1949-1953 and then studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland from 1953-1954.
After college he moved to New York and took a job as a typist at a cathedral and also worked in an art supply store, vying to be discovered and to find his place in the artistic world. He was facing something that still haunts college graduates today… the post-grad slump….
To hear the rest of this amazing story, tune in next week to see the second part of the LOVE sculpture and Indiana’s second public installation, the HOPE sculpture.