Robert Indiana NUMBERS ONE through ZERO, 1978-2003. The complete set of 10 painted aluminum polychrome sculptures in colors, on black steel base. Impressed '© 1978-2003 R Indiana 8/8' on the underside of each.
Art is a mirror in which each one of us can see what we think.
— Constantin Brancusi
Robert Indiana's sculptures were the wellspring of his most meaningful notions. Like Andy Warhol, or Constantin Brancusi before him, Robert Indiana sculpted an iconic visual vocabulary. Spanning from early assemblage to the coveted LOVE paintings, Indiana's work was always, at heart, inherently sculptural. The serialization of common words, such as "LOVE", into both painting and three-dimensional figures forced reconciling commonplace text with overlooked intrigue. These numbers' sculptural shapes elicit powerful, subconscious reactions.
Brancusi in New York 1913 - 2013. Image courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Fred W. McDarrah Andy Warhol with Brillo Boxes, Stable Gallery, April 21, 1964
NUMBERS ONE through ZERO glimpsed at the most profound, though divergent, influences upon Robert Indiana. On one hand was the innocence that the artist so admired in curious works like Gertrude Stein's intentionally juvenile book, To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays. On the other, Indiana said, "I discovered the businessman's calendar and thought the numbers had a robustness, a kind of...crude vigor...which I liked." Counting these numbers might be an act of innocence or nostalgia. Or, probing these curvaceous forms that reference death, sexuality, sadness and ecstasy might open a portal to a spectrum encapsulating human emotion's entirety.
Indiana's work was always, at heart, inherently sculptural.
Early critics read Indiana's work like a riddle; even in a practice that was rooted in numerical divination and the ancient I Ching, this sculpture pays the most endless dividends. Combinations and permutations of its arrangement or installation are infinite. Indiana believed that numbers held life's hidden secrets and that "everyone kind of drifts into some projection of their own experience." NUMBERS ONE through ZERO is then exactly like Brancusi's mirror; the progression of familiar shapes portrays life's endless emotions. For example, ONE's triumphant combination of red and blue is also a signifier for birth's physical tumult; the white and blue on FIVE evoke a transition from adolescence; SEVEN's autumnal hues gently remind of a forthcoming sunset; NINE, in yellow and black, warns of an impending end.
NUMBERS' labyrinth of references might even call to mind the masterful work of Renaissance masters; however, no codex is needed. Each arrangement of this sculpture that reflects back to the viewer will add up correctly.