Sometimes all it takes is something as simple as a Christmas card to seal your fate. In 1964, Robert Indiana unknowingly determined the trajectory of his career with an colorful sketch, a holiday card for the Museum of Modern Art where spread LOVE around the world.

Four years later, MoMA bought Indiana's LOVE painting. By 1970, the pop art typography had morphed into iconic sculptures on street corners from New York to Tokyo. Indiana was less than thrilled about his fame, however.

"LOVE bit me. It was a marvelous idea but also a terrible mistake. It became too popular," he says in an NPR segment. While LOVE appeared on everything from postage stamps to license plates, Indiana saw the image as his downfall. 

Indiana claims that he was "blackballed" by the New York art kings, meaning Leo Castelli and his pop art crew. "See, I wasn't aware that I was disrespected. I've only been neglected," he tells NPR.

35 years after he left New York for a quite life in Maine, Indiana finally got the retrospective he deserves at the Whitney Museum. "Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE" closed yesterday, and walking through the show with NPR, Indiana was thrilled with its scope

The Whitney's show focused heavily on his family, including photos of his parents and explanations of familial themes in text-based works. "Hug," his mother's word for affection, appears on many of Indiana's canvases, as does "eat," the last word his mother ever spoke. 

NPR explains that LOVE was an homage to Indiana's father, using the red and green from the Phillips 66 gas station where his father worked and the endless blue of his native Indiana skies. 

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[via NPR]