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Robert Indiana's Love-Hate Experiences In San Antonio

Morgan Art Foundation, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Indiana's iconic Electric Love sculpture.

Robert Indiana was a successful artist in the 1960s, but shot to worldwide fame when he produced the Electric Love sculpture that became forever attached to the era. The McNay exhibition takes you beyond that work to his other creations -- from stage costumes, to sculpture to paintings.

“Working at the McNay I always enjoy going and seeing exhibitions before we open them to the public," said McNay Director of Communications Daniela Oliver. "This time around it really took my breath away.”

What may not be apparent to those who don't know the exhibition's backstory is Indiana’s San Antonio connections. First connection: He knew the woman who created the museum where the exhibition is on display.

"I have an absolutely beautiful picture of Ms. McNay," Indiana said. "She was a very elegant lady."

He knew Marion Koogler McNay decades ago, back before the museum expanded.

"It was just a lady’s house when I was there," he said.

But Indiana’s familiarity with San Antonio doesn’t stop with the McNay. After joining the military he went to basic training here in San Antonio. As experiences go, it wasn't a great one.

"An awful lot of rain, and sleeping in puddles," he said. "A national fuel strike, the barracks weren't heated. I was in the hospital several times."

Indiana also started a life-long friendship with a prominent San Antonian: Robert L.B. Tobin.

“I knew him very, very well, for many years," Indiana said. "And of course, he was my largest collector. He was a marvelous, marvelous man."

Tobin did, in fact, collect works by Indiana. Several of Indiana’s pieces reside permanently at the McNay.

And one final connection to San Antonio: Robert Indiana also designed a Hemisfair poster for the 1968 World's Fair held here (see URL at bottom).

Beyond Love will exhibit through May 25.

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