NUMBERS ONE THROUGH ZERO, 1980-2001

Cor-Ten Steel
78 x 74 x 38 in.
(198 x 188 x 96.5 cm.)

*Please note only three sculptures shown in installation photograph

Robert Indiana’s eight-foot Cor-Ten ONE through ZERO (1980-2002) is a monumental example of the artist’s long-held fascination with the power of numbers. The series of sculptures perfectly encapsulates Indiana’s multifaceted engagement with the symbolic and formal aspects of numbers, a subject that stands as one of his most important iconographic themes. Indiana, who credited his enduring interest in numbers to the formative experience of moving households multiple times as a child, living in twenty-one different homes by the age of seventeen, has noted that “our very lives are structured around numbers…everything we do is reckoned on numbers.” Their extensive potential as a subject matter lies in their universality; understood across cultures, they engender multiple references and significances, based both on individual experiences and shared cultural meanings.

Numbers first appeared in Indiana’s work in the late 1950s, when he began applying stenciled numbers, which served primarily as abstract titles, to his sculptural assemblages. As Indiana expanded his use of numbers their functions grew to include locating paintings in series such as The American Dream, and serving as personal signifiers that added thematic content to individual works while establishing threads throughout his oeuvre. Numbers as a subject in their own right became a signature motif of Indiana’s painting in the 1960s, their forms inspired by the robust Arabic numerals of an old printer’s calendar that Indiana found in his loft in Coenties Slip in early 1961. The artist carefully shaped and refined these numbers, isolating them for portrait-like images in works such as his 1965 Numbers, a group of ten large-scale canvases representing the numerals one through zero. In these works the numbers, with their mix of fleshy serifs, voluminous curves, and flat, hard-edge lines, are treated with a centrality and individuality more commonly associated with human subjects. The cardinal numbers are also central to his Decade Autoportrait series (1972-77), which represents a symbolic portrait of his life during the decade of the sixties.

Indiana’s numbers have an inherent sculptural quality, which the artist was able to fully explore in his Numbers sculptures. ONE through ZERO was first conceived in 1980 as a series of eight-foot painted aluminum sculptures, a special commission that was donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He later created several series of Numbers sculptures in different scales and finishes, including the eight-foot Cor-Ten ONE through ZERO. Indiana had worked with Cor-Ten previously; it was the material he chose for his first monumental sculpture, a 12-foot LOVE (1970), and his 12-foot AHAVA (1977), created for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Also known as weathering steel, Cor-Ten is a material that, over time, takes on a patina from its environment. A Cor-Ten sculpture’s surface layer develops and regenerates continuously when subjected to the influence of the weather, eventually developing a rich velvety rust-colored appearance.

The diverse exhibitionary possibilities of the Cor-Ten ONE through ZERO are illustrated by the various ways they were displayed in cities throughout Spain and Portugal between 2006-2008, and in Milan during the 2008 exhibition Robert Indiana a Milano. Displayed on important boulevards in Madrid, Valencia, Bilbao, and Lisbon, and on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, ONE through ZERO made a powerful statement in each city. The Numbers became part of each particular urban landscape; they were exhibited differently in the participating cities, giving the public a unique local experience of the same works. And, just as the sculptures impacted the public’s experience of the local environment, that environment impacted the sculptures, leaving its mark by contributing to the weathering of the Cor-Ten, thus becoming part of the history of the work.

The Cor-Ten Numbers sculptures also make a powerful statement when displayed individually. A Cor-Ten Seven stands at the entrance of the Portland Museum of Art, serving as a symbol that reaffirms the physical location of the museum at Seven Congress Square, as well as of the museum’s commitment to adding iconic artworks to its collection. As a public sculpture, a landmark, and a tourist attraction, the sculpture helps to define the city.

Indiana’s Co-Ten ONE through ZERO is a celebration of numbers as universal emblems that transcend the barriers of language; they are embedded with personal associations for the artist, yet are able evoke an array of poetic meanings among the public. Furthermore, the qualities of Cor-Ten give the Numbers sculptures a distinctive quality in that the works, while transforming the environment in which they stand, are simultaneously being transformed by that environment.

Medium

Decade

View

Clear Filters
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