Catherine Jozwik
Art Scene

LOVE Affair at Milwaukee Art Museum

Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture installed. But who’s the donor?

By - Sep 9th, 2019 04:52 pm
Robert Indiana's 1970 "American LOVE" sculpture. Photo by Dave Reid.

Robert Indiana’s 1970 “American LOVE” sculpture. Photo by Dave Reid.

Last Thursday, the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) welcomed an iconic piece of public art to its permanent collection with an unveiling ceremony and community gathering that included city officials, music, food vendors, and a talk by an art expert.

Inspired by the 1967 Summer of Love and hippie counterculture, Robert Indiana’s bright red and white 1970 “American LOVE” sculpture, gifted to the MAM by an anonymous donor, now stands on the outdoor patio on the museum’s east end.

Indiana’s sculpture, which was showcased in front of the Northwestern Mutual building during last year’s Sculpture Milwaukee outdoor exhibit, is expected to provide ample photo opportunities for wedding parties, museum visitors, and passersby.

“We’re thrilled that so many attended the unveiling of the Robert Indiana ‘American LOVE’ sculpture and community celebration last week,” said Josh Depenbrok, MAM public relations manager.

Indiana was born Robert Clark in 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. Joining artists such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, Indiana became an influential figure in the American pop art movement of the 1950 and 1960s. His enduring images, like the works in his EAT series, often featured short words in bold-colored paint or lights, set against a neutral background. Indiana originally created “American LOVE” as a print for New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 Christmas card.

Indiana, who passed away at the age of 89 in 2018, became known in Milwaukee for his 1977 Bucks basketball floor design at the MECCA Arena, which the team left for the Bradley Center in the late 1980s. Several Indiana works, including a sculpture and replica of the MECCA floor, are part of the MAM’s permanent collection.

“American LOVE” can now be included among Milwaukee’s landmarks.

“The LOVE sculpture is a fantastic addition to Milwaukee’s lakefront, and an important addition to our collection,” said Depenbrok.

This is the second time an anonymous donor gifted a work from Sculpture Milwaukee to a city institution. Tony Cragg’s “Mixed Feelings,” which stands in front of City Hall, was given to the city in 2018.

Art News

The seventeenth cycle of the Mary L. Nohl Fellowships for Individual Artists has begun. Open to artists living in the four-county metro area, the program will offer five fellowships–two $20,000 awards for established artists and three $10,000 awards for emerging artists. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. October 3. Visit the Nohl Fellowships website for fellowship guidelines and applications, or contact Polly Morris, executive director of Lynden Sculpture Garden, at 414-446-8794.

Art Events and Gallery Openings

Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.:

Join Ariel Pate, Milwaukee Art Museum assistant curator of photography, for a talk on the museum’s current exhibit, “Portrait of Milwaukee,” which opened Friday. The talk is free with MAM admission and for museum members.

Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.:

Take a seated tour by trolley of Sculpture Milwaukee, the works of public art located along Wisconsin Avenue. Visit MAM’s website for tickets.

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.:

The UW-Milwaukee Department of Art and Design’s “Artists Now! Guest Lecture Series” welcomes Chris Cornelius, who will give a talk at the UWM Arts Center Lecture Hall, 2400 N. Kenwood Blvd. A UWM associate professor of architecture and citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Cornelius is also a 2018 Mary L. Nohl fellow and founding principal of studio:indigenous, a design firm.

Friday, 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.: 

The Labyrinth Society of Lynden Sculpture Garden will celebrate September’s Harvest Moon with a sound bath and candle labyrinth walk. The event will feature Lynden artist-in-residence Jenna Knapp and sound healer Catherine Soteira (known as Cat Ries). Visit the Lynden Sculpture Garden website for more information.


T.L. Solien: Forest Fighters/Black Eye Joke, featuring the neo-surrealistic and neo-expressionist paintings of veteran Madison artist T.L. Solien, opens at the Tory Folliard Gallery. 

-Masters of Catalonia, Central and South America opens at the Latino Arts Gallery, located in the United Community Center at 1028 S. 9th St. The exhibition is a collaboration between Latino Arts, Inc. and the David Barnett Gallery.

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: 

“Hohokam Pottery: A Ceramics Workshop with Katheryn Corbin” will be held at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The workshop fee is $85; ($75 for members), with all materials included.

Sunday 10:30 a.m.:

A talk with art historian James Elkins on his latest book, “What Painting Is,” will be held in the Milwaukee Art Museum’’s Northwestern Mutual Room. Those interested can RSVP to or call 414-224-3886.

Saturday and Sunday:

The Sixth Annual Maker Faire Milwaukee will be held at the Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. Admission is free, but wristbands are required to enter the event. Visit the Maker Faire website to pre-register.

Last Chance: Exhibits Closing

-A closing reception for Inside/Out, the Portrait Society Gallery’s current exhibition, will be held noon to 5 p.m. at the gallery Saturday. The event will include a book signing for author Alan Kent Anderson’s new book, When Bad Lands.

Among the Wonders of the Dells will close at the Museum of Wisconsin Art  Sunday.

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