You call this love? A new sculpture in Brooklyn Bridge Park takes after Robert Indiana’s stacked block letters spelling “LOVE” at 55th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan since 1964. But love is not the message in the new work.

Distinction with a big difference

Instead of love, this new stack of letters spells “Land,” and conveyed in anger given the artist’s words about the work said to Brooklyn Magazine: “It’s a work about colonialism and borders and violence.” The sculpture certainly looks menacing.

Lifting another artist’s idea to promote your own is bad enough.

Doing it to send an opposite message is like using, say, the McDonald’s “M” logo to pitch marijuana.

Nicholas Galanin’s message is angry down to his choice of material. He told the magazine that he purposely picked industrial steel because it’s the same “brutalist construction” that forms the U.S.- Mexico border, and he wants people to think about “land ownership.”

My problem with this work is not Galanin’s political views but his poaching Indiana’s “Love” statue to protest colonial power. Speaking again about his materials, Galanin said the steel suggests “something restrictive, violent, and divisive.”

OK, but what explains stealing from Indiana’s sculpture? Galanin has a ready answer for that, too: “Pop Art was this movement that was critical of fine art.

This work is critical of control and exclusion.”

No, that can’t be right. Indiana’s “Love” sculpture has little to do with Pop Art challenging Fine Art with images from commercial art. Love is not a commodity. The message of love had zero to do with commodities like Brillo boxes and Campbell Soup cans.

To be fair, while Galanin’s sculpture has nothing to do with love, neither does Indiana’s, at least when it comes to romantic love.

As he told his biographer Jori Finkel in the 2019 book, his was a spiritual message based on his Christian Science learning “God is love.”

Indiana regretted creating the “love” sculpture. “It was a marvelous idea, but it was also a terrible mistake,” he told NPR in 2014. That’s because it became so popular that it overshadowed all of his other work.

What’s more, it was constantly being ripped off. One wonders if Galanin knows that.

Familiarity breeds contempt

There were so many pirated versions that Indiana tried to get copywriting protection. But apparently, you can’t get protection for a single word. Galanin not only produced unoriginal art, he used art that’s been copied ad nauseam – not the best choice to make a political argument.

Indiana died in 2018 unhappy with his “LOVE” sculpture legacy. It’s likely that he wouldn’t have been happy to see Galanin use his uplifting message for a sculpture that is far from uplifting.

Hopefully, Indiana knew about the ongoing positive effect of his “LOVE” sculpture. It’s a rare day when you pass the corner of 55th Street and 6th Avenue in New York and don’t see pedestrians lined up to take selfies with it.