LOVE Cross exemplifies Indiana’s interest in the spiritual nature of love, which he traced back to his childhood and the Christian Scientist churches he attended, where the inscription “God is Love” was often the only form of decoration. The painting was commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil for a proposed Vatican Oecumenical Pavilion at the 1968 Hemisfair in San Antonio, Texas, for which Indiana designed the official poster. Although the pavilion was never realized, the commission was completed, and the work was first shown in the artist’s 1968 solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
Indiana experimented with multiple configurations of his famous LOVE design, including four-panel square works such as LOVE Wall and two-panel rectangular works such as The Imperial Love. His interest in the subject of the cross arose while working at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where the artist transcribed a manuscript on the subject. This led him to create his 1958 mural Stavrosis, composed of 44 joined pieces of paper, and he later employed the cruciform format in his 1964 painting The Demuth American Dream #5.
The 15-foot LOVE Cross consists of five panels, and is one of Indiana’s largest works. The panels have various orientations of his four-letter LOVE design; rendered in a vibrant red and blue combination, the work is both spiritually and artistically provocative.