Indiana’s most recognized and celebrated work is LOVE (1966). During the 1960s, just as the slogan “make love not war” was gaining momentum, LOVE confounded the art world with its conflation of word and image, its reductive simplicity, and its visual resemblance to advertising. Yet the public perceived it as a symbol of countercultural freedom, even though the slanting “O” implied a critique of the precariousness and hollow sentimentality often associated with love. Since its creation, LOVE has appeared on products including postage stamps, doormats, and license plates, eclipsing the emotional poignancy and symbolic complexity of Indiana’s art.
Ask students to look closely at Robert Indiana’s painting LOVE. Have students seen this image or similar images before? Where? Ask each student to write down the first three words or phrases that come to mind when they look at the image. Have each student share one of their words or phrases with the class. Are their responses similar or different? Do their classmates’ interpretations make them think differently about this work? In what ways? Share information about the work with your students. What was happening in the United States at this time? Discuss the social and political climate during the 1960s.