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Saturday 23 June 2018

Pop artist Robert Indiana dies at 89

Friends had expressed concern for the reclusive artist’s well-being because he had not been heard from for some time.

Obit Robert Indiana
Obit Robert Indiana

By David Sharp, Associated Press

American pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s “Love” series, has died at his island home off the coast of Maine aged 89.

Indiana died on Saturday from respiratory failure at his Victorian home in a converted Odd Fellows hall, a fraternal order lodge, on Vinalhaven Island, where he had lived for years, said his lawyer, James Brannan.

Friends had expressed concern for the reclusive artist’s well-being because he had not been heard from for some time.

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Obit Robert Indiana

A lawsuit filed in New York City the day before his death suggested he was purposefully isolated by his carers.

Mr Brannan declined to comment on the situation.

The artist’s “Love” sculpture, in which the “L” and a leaning “O” sit on top of the “V” and “E”, is instantly recognisable worldwide.

However, he also created other works, and fashioned a “Hope” design, similar to “Love”, in honour of former president Barack Obama.

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Obit Robert Indiana

“In some ways he was perhaps seen as the proverbial one-hit wonder because ‘Love’ was so immensely iconic and immensely huge in pop culture. For better or for worse, it overshadowed some of his other contributions,” said Dan Mills, director at Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine.

In his later years, Indiana was known for living an increasingly reclusive life 15 miles (24km) off the mainland on Vinalhaven, where he moved in 1978.

Kathleen Rogers, a friend and former publicist, told the Associated Press she was so concerned about hiom that she contacted the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to investigate six to eight weeks ago.

Through tears, she said did not want Indiana to be remembered for shutting out friends and closing his studio.

“He was a better guy than he’s been portrayed as being. He was reclusive, cantankerous and sometimes difficult. But he was a very loyal, loving man. He was the architect of love,” she said.

A DHHS spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

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Robert Indiana piece to be auctioned

The story goes that Indiana, who was born in Indiana, settled in Maine after becoming disillusioned with the art scene in New York.

But he told the Associated Press in 2009 that he moved to his house – which a benefactor bought for him – when he needed a place to go after his lease ran out on his five-storey studio and gallery in the Bowery section of New York City.

His desire for solitude was well-known.

He once stood up President Obama at the White House. Another time he made a crew from NBC’s Today show wait days before he would let them interview him.

In 2014, he disappointed dozens of fans by failing to make an appearance outside his home for an event dubbed International Hope Day, which was inspired by his creativity. Events were held in several locations around the world.

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Love sculpture on display

Although he created a wealth of art, the famous “Love” tended to overshadow his other work.

Decades later, Indiana’s other art took centre stage in a 2013 exhibit, Robert Indiana: Beyond Love, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

“Well, that’s taken a while,” he quipped.

In Maine, Mr Mills said he was inspired by the Whitney’s efforts to produce a 2016 exhibition, Robert Indiana: Now And Then.

It was one of the last major shows focusing on Indiana’s work, he said.

Press Association

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