From the District with LOVE

The iconic LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana is almost as complex as the real thing.  One of the most recognizable modern-day images this four-letter word with a forward-leaning “O” captures an important time during the Pop Art movement.  Originally commissioned in 1965 by the Museum of Modern Art for its annual holiday card, LOVE has since appeared in prints, sculptures, banners, t-shirts and so much more.  From the first “Love” stamp printed by the U.S. Postal Service in 1973 to the massive statue at Sixth Avenue and 55th Street in New York, many have argued that the popularity and widespread appropriation of Indiana’s design was partially responsible for driving the artist to retreat to the island of Vilhaven, Maine.

LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana

Photo: LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana

The true breadth and scope of his life’s work was finally exhibited in 2013 with “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE” at the Whitney Museum of American Art—his first major museum show in New York since Americans 1963 and his only major museum solo show ever in the city.  Curators described the retrospective as “Bold and visually dazzling, [embracing] the vocabulary of highway signs and roadside entertainments that were commonplace in post war America.  Presciently, he used words to explore themes of American identity, racial injustice, and the illusion and disillusion of love.” Now represented by Opera Gallery, and with a public sculpture currently on view in Palm Court, one can find the emotional complexity of Indiana’s LOVE right in the neighborhood.

Myth Fortuna by Mark Quinn (Kate Moss)

Photo: Myth Fortuna by Mark Quinn

A brief stroll from Palm Court to the Paseo Ponti corridor will land visitors nose-to-nose with Myth Fortuna, a monumental plaster sculpture of Kate Moss in a cortorted yoga pose.  Created by Mark Quinn, the artist’s mastery of the human form and the glorification of the body are striking when experienced at this scale.  Back in 2011, another in this series was made of ten kilograms of 18-caret gold, and sold for $900,000 at the auction house.  Designed to both elevate and underline the lionization that often occurs with celebrities, Quinn’s homage is a beautiful reminder of the consumer’s complicity in building them into idols.  

Maternity by Fernando Botero

Photo: Maternity by Fernando Botero

Less than 100 feet from Myth Fortuna, signature voluptuous figures by Colombian master Fernando Botero appear on the northern side of Paseo Ponti.  In a piece titled Maternity, a proud mother masterfully balances her child on her rounded lap.  One can almost imagine her giving life advice to the backbending Moss—if only they were facing each other… Spacially, however, the two sculptures are very much in conversation, perhaps even suggesting that viewers choose a side.  Widely considered one of the most recognized and prolific living artists of Latin America, fantasy aside, Botero’s work continues to find a place in the heart of the city’s public spaces. 

A spring-time stroll through the District will bring sculptural encounters that are fantastically larger life.  Whether with Indiana’s LOVE, Quinn’s Kate Moss, or Botero’s protoganists, visitors can travel from Pop to figurative art, and all in the space of two square blocks.  For more information about the artists and installations, visit Opera Gallery at 140 NE 39th Street, Suite 239 and Maman Fine Art at 3930 NE 2nd Avenue, Suite 204.