Sculpture Milwaukee placing Robert Indiana's 'LOVE' in front of Northwestern Mutual tower
Riffed on by the likes of Google, Rage Against the Machine, the U.S. Postal Service and free-love hippies, Robert Indiana's Pop Art masterpiece "LOVE" will be installed in front of Northwestern Mutual's glassy tower Friday. It will be part of this year's Sculpture Milwaukee, an annual outdoor public art exhibition.
Installation for Sculpture Milwaukee begins Thursday. The 21 artworks are exhibited along Wisconsin Ave. from June to October. The 8-foot Indiana "LOVE" sculpture destined for Milwaukee is one of several that exist in cities around the world, including in Chinese, Hebrew and other languages. The most famous is in Philadelphia's LOVE Park.
Artists and others have found Indiana's block of love irresistible, and have fiddled with it endlessly. Oasis' "Little by Little" CD cover is a knowing homage, and Rage Against the Machine's "Renegades" cover with black letters and a tilting "G" shifts the visual and conceptual gravity of the original. A Google Doodle for Valentine's Day and the original book cover for Erich Segal's novel “Love Story” both alluded to the design, too.
Indiana himself remixed "LOVE" for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He created "HOPE" in honor of then presidential candidate Barack Obama.
As ubiquitous as Indiana's "LOVE" sculpture has become, the artist is also a sentimental favorite for Steve Marcus — chairman of Marcus Corp., and the founder of Sculpture Milwaukee.
About 40 years ago, Marcus tapped Indiana to create one of the most recognizable basketball floors in NBA history. The decision to commission the Pop artist from New York for the Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center and Arena, or MECCA, floor was controversial at the time, in part due to the selection of a non-local artist.
When Indiana's basketball floor was unveiled in 1977, though, with a giant M flanking each side of the mid-court line and a candy-apple-red bull's-eye at center court, players, coaches and fans generally adored it. It didn't hurt that the Milwaukee Bucks were on a winning streak and made the playoffs in 13 of the 14 next seasons.
With its “LO” is stacked atop the “VE” and the “O” gently canted, some say Indiana's "LOVE" sculpture is more famous than the Mona Lisa. The letters kiss and press up against each other, and the whole design is held inside that sacred space of 20th-century art: the square.
After centuries of love in art, whether between Cupid and Psyche or Mary and Jesus, Indiana gave us love as a word, as an concept. And, in the 1960s, he used the language of postwar idealism — modern advertising.
It was both an endearing and approachable send-up to a universal human emotion and an invitation to consider the soul of the 20th century, and perhaps now the 21st, too. What is it that we truly love?
Other artists included in this year's Sculpture Milwaukee include Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sol LeWitt, Hank Willis Thomas and the Milwaukee-based team of Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg.
Most of the art is for sale with a percentage of the proceeds going to support Sculpture Milwaukee. Tours, workshops and other events are being scheduled in conjunction with the installation. Visit sculpturemilwaukee.com.