NUMBERS ONE THROUGH ZERO, 1980-2001

Polychrome Aluminum
72 x 72 x 36 in.
(182.9 x 182.9 x 91.4 cm.)

NUMBERS ONE through ZERO is a monumental example of Robert Indiana’s long-held fascination with the power of numbers, a subject which stands as one of his most important iconographic themes. Indiana has famously 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 – while he has also emphasized his embrace of the variety of meanings and associations that numbers can generate. Describing his enduring attraction to numbers, Indiana has emphasized that “each one [is] loaded with multiple references and significances.” Every number has a specific personal resonance for Indiana, relating either to events in his own life (such as highway routes and buildings where he lived), or to the cycle of life itself. For Indiana, the number one represents birth, with the numbers ascending through adolescence to maturity, ending with the number zero, which stands for death.

Indiana began to apply numbers to his sculptural assemblages and paintings at the end of the 1950s, and in the 1960s numbers as a subject in their own right became one of the signature motifs of Indiana’s painting. Their forms, as Indiana has explained, were particularly inspired by the robust Arabic numerals of an old printer’s calendar that he found in his loft in Coenties Slip. Indiana first conceived the NUMBER sculptures in 1980 for a special commission for a developer in Indianapolis; these eight-foot sculptures were subsequently donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He then created several series of NUMBER sculptures in different scales and finishes, including this six-foot series, which was exhibited along New York’s Park Avenue in 2013 as part of “Art in the Park” (2003), and in London in 2013 as part of “Sculpture in the City.”

NUMBERS ONE through ZERO conveys a characteristic blending of the disciplines of painting and sculpture that is one of the distinguishing features of Indiana’s work.  Like his sculptural interpretation of his originally two-dimensional subject of LOVE, it suggests that the printed form has been extruded into space. The depth of the numbers, which is about half their width, gives the forms a monumental solidity that underlines the way the sculptures stand as a poetic condensation of Indiana’s multifaceted engagement with the symbolic, allegorical and formal aspects of numbers. As with the letters of the alphabet, Indiana’s NUMBERS can be arranged and rearranged in different ways to generate different meanings through their combinations and juxtapositions.

The palette of Indiana’s NUMBERS is also loaded with symbolism. He explained the choice of palette as follows: red and blue are associated with birth in ONE; green and blue signify infancy in TWO; orange and blue represent youth in THREE; yellow and red are connected with adolescence in FOUR; white and blue signify the pre-prime of life in FIVE; green and red signify the prime of life in SIX; blue and orange suggest early autumn of life in SEVEN; purple and red signal autumn in EIGHT; black and yellow convey a sense of warning in NINE; and shades of gray signal the end of the life cycle in ZERO. The use of contrasting colors on the flat frontal planes versus the contours creates a dramatic contrast of colors, which is amplified in the shifting play of the colors as one moves around them.

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