In 1977 Indiana conceived a new version of his iconic LOVE sculpture, AHAVA, using the Hebrew word for “love” in the same distinctive quadripartite composition that he had developed in the mid-1960s. The work embodies Indiana’s unique approach to sculptural form, translating the two-dimensional written word into a monumental sculpture with precisely rendered hard edges.
Indiana created this 12-foot high Cor-Ten steel version of AHAVA as a gift for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There it is dramatically displayed in the museum’s Isamu Noguchi-designed sculpture garden, the brown rust of the steel against the blue sky creating a marked contrast between the earthly and heavenly, symbolizing two different aspects of love.
AHAVA, a memorial tribute to Bishop James A. Pike, exemplifies the importance of the spiritual aspect of love to Indiana. Pike, who died in the Israeli desert and for whom Indiana worked at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, had much to do with the artist’s involvement in and treatment of the subject of love. In AHAVA the effect of stacking the characters in a two by two arrangement, separating them with a vertical rather than horizontal line, points to the connection between divinity and love. The characters on the right are the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which read consecutively spell “av,” meaning father, while the two characters on the left represent one of the acronyms for God in Hebrew.