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McNay Exhibit Goes Beyond 'Electric LOVE' With Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana is one of America’s most successful living artists. I spoke to him recently from his island home off Maine. You probably know Indiana’s iconic Electric LOVE sculpture with the distinctive crooked "O" from the mid 1960s.

"I've done pretty well by being known for Love," reflects the artist.

But beyond the love statue there is so much more. Last week the McNay Art Museum opened Beyond Love last week at the expansive Stieren Center.

I asked Indiana to look back on his time when he was creating art in the American epicenter New York City. I wondered if the edgy world that swirled around Andy Warhol and others was a distraction from his work.

“No, no," Indiana said. "By living down at the very tip of Manhattan I was able to steer away from most of the hubbub that went on in New York. That was all uptown and I was downtown, and very few people ever enjoyed visiting because at that time it was an absolute slum. I paid $25 a month for rent."

Indiana credits an interesting source for really getting him started:

"My first grade school teacher asked if she could keep a couple of my drawings, telling me that one day she knew I was going to be a famous artist," Indiana said. "She greatly set the whole thing into motion."

Indiana kept with art, even though his efforts were sidelined for a time by something else.

“I joined the military, and I took basic training in you-know-where," he said.

"I’m suspecting San Antonio," I said.

"San Antonio. That’s right. Absolutely horrible experience," Indiana said.

Tomorrow I will reveal why it was so bad, and we’ll see another strong San Antonio connection to Indiana’s work.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii