Coenties Slip West is among the earliest paintings by Indiana to feature a circle with words tracing the perimeter as its central compositional element. Indiana had previously used this technique as one element of larger compositions in The Slips (1959–60) and in The American Dream, I (1960–61).
The form in the center of the circle is a stylized representation of Coenties Slip, the street where Indiana had lived since 1956. Coenties Slip ran three blocks south from Pier 5 on the East River to Pearl Street and the block closest to the river was split by Jeannette Park. Indiana and his group of friends lived along the West side of the street, Indiana at both 25 and 31 Coenties Slip, Ellsworth Kelly at number 3-5, and Jack Youngerman at number 27.