DECADE AUTOPORTRAIT 1960 (48 in.), 1971

oil on canvas
48 x 48 in.
(121.9 x 121.9 cm.)

Decade: Autoportrait 1960 belongs to the series of symbolic self-portraits that Indiana created as a meditation on his life and career in the 1960s. The series, created in the 1970s, is comprised of works in three different sizes; the present work is an example of the 48 inch square version, which was included in a significant 1972 solo exhibition at the Denise René Gallery in New York.

Representing the opening year in this transformative decade, Decade: Autoportrait 1960 makes reference to some of the most important people and places in the development of Indiana’s artistic career. The inscription “THE WATERFRONT,” which grounds the composition, refers to Coenties Slip, where Indiana lived from 1956-1965. The area, on the Southeast tip of Manhattan, had once been the center of the shipping trade in New York, and became home to a vanguard art community in the late 1950s. The inscriptions “PEARL” and “SOUTH ST” both refer to neighboring streets near Indiana’s Coenties Slip studios. Fellow artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns lived on Pearl Street in the early fifties, while Agnes Martin and Jack Youngerman occupied studios on South Street in the early sixties.

An explicit reference to a close friend at the time is found in the phrase “ELLS” which refers to Ellsworth Kelly, the artist who was responsible for introducing Indiana to Coenties Slip. As Indiana has often acknowledged, Kelly was one of the most important influences of his early career, particularly in his exploration of hard-edged abstract forms and brilliant colors. The inscription “ICI,” which means “here” in French, can be seen as a declarative statement that underlines the importance of the places cited here for Indiana.

Although 1960 marked the beginning of a decade, its last numeral is aligned in Indiana’s own personal symbolism of numbers with the idea of death. The palette, rendered in shades of gray, underlines this idea, which is represented in other renderings of the number zero by Indiana. By being aligned with both the idea of beginnings and endings, the painting encodes complex ideas about the cycle of life.

The composition of Decade: Autoportrait 1960 is based on a series of forms that had particular resonance for Indiana, including the figure “1,” which represents the idea of the individual; a five-sided star, which alludes to the stars of the American flag; and a decagon, whose ten sides make reference to the theme of the decade. These shapes, together with the fragments of text that include “IND,” the abbreviation of the artist’s name, are layered upon one another, suggesting overlapping transparent planes. Indiana’s masterful handling of these interpenetrating visual planes is particularly notable in this work, and demonstrates his unique adaptation of the heritage of Cubism and American Precisionism into his own formal language.

Medium

Decade

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UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
TECH

TECH

1945
500

500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
MENE MENE TEKEL

MENE MENE TEKEL

1955-56/1989
GINKGO

GINKGO

1957/1959
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959-1960
RA

RA

1960
ZIG

ZIG

1960
SOUL

SOUL

1960
OWL

OWL

1960
ORB

ORB

1960
MOON

MOON

1960
M

M

1960
HOLE

HOLE

1960
GE

GE

1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960 - 1961
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960-1961
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960-1962
MATE

MATE

1960-1962
TWO

TWO

1960-1962
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960-1962
BAR

BAR

1960-1962
LAW

LAW

1960-1962
STAR

STAR

1960-1962
CUBA

CUBA

1960-1962
MELVILLE

MELVILLE

1961
BALLYHOO

BALLYHOO

1961
HARDROCK

HARDROCK

1961
WOMB

WOMB

1961
SLIP

SLIP

1961
GEM

GEM

1961/1984
DOWN

DOWN

1962
UP

UP

1962
GRASS

GRASS

1962
FOR

FOR

1962
EAT/DIE

EAT/DIE

1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
FOUR

FOUR

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
AHAB

AHAB

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
X-5

X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963-1964
COLUMN HUG

COLUMN HUG

1963-1964
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963-1964
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963/1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
ONE

ONE

1965
TWO

TWO

1965
THREE

THREE

1965
FOUR

FOUR

1965
FIVE

FIVE

1965
SIX

SIX

1965
SEVEN

SEVEN

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966-1999
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966/2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
APOGEE

APOGEE

1970
ART

ART

1972-2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
EVE

EVE

1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998-2006
COMET

COMET

2000