In late 1959 Indiana began his first constructions, working with scraps of lumber and found metal objects, and by 1960 was producing his first free-standing sculptures, which he called herms. Ginkgo, painted in gesso on a wood panel, forms a link between his 1959 paintings on plywood and his new assemblage-based sculptures. The work's double ginkgo leaf design, which Indiana first experimented with in a 1957 series of paintings on paper, was inspired by the ginkgo trees in he saw in Jeannette Park, across from his loft.
When shown at the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in the exhibition Wood Works: Constructions by Robert Indiana, Ginkgo was mounted to the top of a white pedestal. Indiana later had the work framed for wall display.