DECADE: AUTOPORTRAIT 1966 (48 in.), 1971

oil on canvas
48 x 48 in.
(121.9 x 121.9 cm)

©2021 MORGAN ART FOUNDATION LTD./ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NY

Barbaralee Diamonstein: In that particular series [Decade Autoportrait], there is an almost obsessive dovetailing of references, cross-references, all sorts of sequential symbols.

Robert Indiana: The first, of course, is the circle, and for some reason goes back to the childhood experience with Christian Science. Everything begins with the circle.

Diamonstein: Is there a circle in every work?

Indiana: Almost every, including the Love, because of the O. The sculpture Art stands apart, divorced from the form. But anyway, as a child, I was hit over the head with this hammer which said that the circle is the symbolization of eternal life. So we start with eternal life, because we all just know it goes on and on forever, and of course, cast in the circle is a decagon, and I’m very fond of geometry. I hated arithmetic and algebra, but I loved geometry. The decagon says decade. Within the decagon, hitting every other point, is the five-pointed star, which, I assume, is the American symbol. If one is going to be an American and talk about things American, one has to have a star some place.

Diamonstein: Sometimes I think the star is your personal emblem too.

Indiana: It has kind of become that, except I’m stuck with it too. Then, cast on top of those is the number one. I am absolutely intrigued with numerals, this coming from the fact that whenI was a kid, before I was seventeen years old I had lived in twenty-one different houses. I had a mother who was an absolute gypsy She couldn’t bear to live in a house for more than a year at a time. So that was House Number Five, and this was House Number Seventeen, and I just got this thing about numbers. Number one is there because after all it is a self-portrait, and that is what one is all about.

Diamonstein: Can we go through some of the sequences of that decade? Beginning in 1961?

Indiana: We begin with 1960. Whereas in my own numeral paintings I used the zero as the final digit instead of the first digit, with the auto-portraits, it has to come back to its accepted order, and it stands for the first year of a decade, which would be 1960.
And 1960, of course, begins—I was still on Coenties Slip at that time, so the word Slip might appear, the word Coenties might appear. When I moved to the Bowery in 1965, the Bowery appears. Sometimes Skid Row appears.

Diamonstein: Sometimes in Dutch?

Indiana: Yes, spelled also in the Dutch manner, Bouwerie. Then I just pick out things from each of those years.

Diamonstein: Tell us, briefly, the highlights of each of the years. What is 1961?

Indiana: Well, 1961 is when it all really started to happen. In my own mind there’s a great kind of jumble and confusion. I can pick out highlights. For instance, the word Die does appear frequently, and it appears in a year, say, like 1963, when there was a major assassination. It might also appear in another suite the year that my father died. My red, blue, and green 1966 goes back to the Love. My Love show [at the Stable Gallery, New York] was in 1966. My father was born in June, the sixth month, into a family of six children. He worked for Phillips 66 and left my mother and went to California via Highway 66, passing all those signs that said, “Use 666,” which was a cold remedy. I do get caught up with very commonplace, everyday visual things like that.

 

Excerpt from Barbarelee Diamonstein. “Robert Indiana.” In Inside New York’s Art World, pp. 151–66. New York: Rizzoli, 1979.

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
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959–60
SUN AND MOON

SUN AND MOON

1959–60
FOUR

FOUR

1959–62/1972
TWO GOLDEN ORBS

TWO GOLDEN ORBS

1959/2001
GINKGO

GINKGO

1960
RA

RA

1960
SOUL

SOUL

1960
OWL

OWL

1960
MOON

MOON

1960
M

M

1960
GE

GE

1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960–61
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960–61
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960–62
MATE

MATE

1960–62
TWO

TWO

1960–62
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960–62
BAR

BAR

1960–62
ZIG

ZIG

1960–62
LAW

LAW

1960–62
AHAB

AHAB

1960–62
STAR

STAR

1960–62
WOMB

WOMB

1960–62
CUBA

CUBA

1960–62
ORB

ORB

1960–62
HOLE

HOLE

1960–62
MELVILLE

MELVILLE

1961
BALLYHOO

BALLYHOO

1961
HARDROCK

HARDROCK

1961
SLIP

SLIP

1961
DOWN

DOWN

1962
UP

UP

1962
GRASS

GRASS

1962
FOR

FOR

1962
EAT/DIE

EAT/DIE

1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
GEM

GEM

1962/1984
THE X-5

THE X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963–64
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963–64
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963/1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
THE ELECTRIC EAT

THE ELECTRIC EAT

1964–2007
ONE

ONE

1964–65
TWO

TWO

1964–65
THREE

THREE

1964–65
FOUR

FOUR

1964–65
FIVE

FIVE

1964–65
SEVEN

SEVEN

1964–65
MY MOTHER

MY MOTHER

1964/1998
MY FATHER

MY FATHER

1964/1998
DILLINGER

DILLINGER

1964/1998
CALL ME ISHMAEL

CALL ME ISHMAEL

1964/1998
CALL ME INDIANA

CALL ME INDIANA

1964/1998
BOB'S COLUMN

BOB'S COLUMN

1964/1998
SIX

SIX

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
ALABAMA

ALABAMA

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
FLORIDA

FLORIDA

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966–1999
THE ELECTRIC LOVE

THE ELECTRIC LOVE

1966–2000
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966–2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
APOGEE

APOGEE

1970
ART

ART

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
ÀI

ÀI

2002
ÀI

ÀI

2002