ROBERT INDIANA (b. 1928)
Numbers: One, 1996
45.1 x 45.7 x 25.4 cm (18 x 18 x 10 in)
Edition: 8, 2AP
Materials: Enamel on steel
Markings: Stamped '1996 R INDIANA'
In Robert Indiana's paintings and sculptures numbers are used to tell narratives. The numbers work on varying levels: they can be seen as a quantity, a date, a month, but also for specific form as in the bulbous, doubled, hollow-centred 8: its curves returning into itself infinitely. As with his LOVE sculpture, the Numbers contrast and confuse the way we look at everyday symbols; to read the word as a word is no longer to see it as a purely formal arrangement of line and colour and shape; to see the word or number as a formal design is momentarily to forget its meaning.
Certain numbers have special significance to the artist, encoding references to Indiana's personal, and our collective history. The artist maintains strong, if not visceral, memories of his earliest days that still influence his work. The bright colours chosen for the series are derived from childhood memories of the Phillips 66 logo and the gas stations of Phillips petroleum, the company for whom Indiana's father worked. Certainly Indiana grew up with a strong awareness of the local road signage, the numbers of the routes and a close identification of those signs, symbols, digits and colour schemes with his own early family life.
'I've always been fascinated by numbers. Before I was seventeen years old, I had lived in twenty-one different houses. In my mind, each of those houses had a number.'