Phyllis Tuchman: How do you determine whether an object works or doesn’t work?
Robert Indiana: It’s always been a matter of impact: the relationship of color to color and word to shape and word to complete piece — both the literal and visual aspects. I’m most concerned with the force of its impact. I’ve never found attractive things that are delicate, or soft or subtly nuanced. They’re not unattractive to others, but I’ve never found them attractive myself.
Tuchman: How did you arrive at your word constructions? Do you have models?
Indiana: Material influenced content. The wooden beams were so narrow. I could not have long words. So my visual vocabulary became terse and telegraphic. The constructions have three-letter words; once in a while, they go to four or five.
Tuchman: Do you consider your word constructions sculptures?
Indiana: Yes. Basically they’re stelae. They’re also herms. I had a great interest in classical art – the wood forms are based on the herm figure minus the heads. That came about gradually. They preceded my paintings. First the words appeared on the herms and then, as I began to be able to afford canvas and stretchers, the paintings happened – although they started out, as you can see, very small.
Excerpt from “Pop! Interviews with George Segal, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Robert Indiana,” interview by Phyllis Tuchman, ARTnews, May 1974.