This work will be included in the Robert Indiana Catalogue raisonné being prepared by Simon Salama-Caro.
"Numbers are fascinating because they are numbers, each one loaded with multiple references and significances." (Robert Indiana, private interview)
Numbers exist all around us; they influence our lives as much as words . Numbers belong to the universal language that connects us all. For Robert Indiana, numbers have always played a seminal role in his life. "As recollected by my parents, numbers came before the alphabet. My firmest association came as a result of my family's roving nature" (R. Indiana, private interview). Prominently known as a painter of "American signs," Indiana works in series, variations on different themes. These works often viewed as easily comprehensible, due to their immediate readability and hard-edge graphic forms, are misleading. They are complex both in structure and in meaning.
Inspired by a print given to the artist, based on the ten stages of a man's life, Indiana created the monumental NUMBER series to correlate each stage with various color combinations. THREE, a significant part of this series, represents the stage right before adolescence in a human's life. With its full bodied shape, THREE recalls old- fashioned elegantly formed numerals used on calendars found in American offices. By using this style of numbers in his work, Indiana concretely translates his personal recollections and time's passage. Visually bold, the dramatic combination of orange and blue immediately grabs hold of the viewers' attention.
A reflective and self-aware artist, Robert Indiana does not believe in chance or coincidence when it comes to numbers. He believes each number has a certain significance and deeper meaning, which he genuinely respects and loves. "Numbers chart the world's course. From the moment we are born we are immersed in numbers, birthdays, age, addresses, money everywhere you turn numbers surround us" (R. Indiana, quoted in Indiana's Indiana's, exh. cat., Farnsworth Museum of Art, Rockland, Maine, p. 7). Like many mathematicians, Indiana follows numbers both practically and emotionally. "With the knowledge of an underlying logic, a fundamental truth, to numbers as well as letters, these numbers are more than symbols they are actual physical entities that bring to life their full potency"(A. Dannatt, quoted in Robert Indiana: Paseo de Recoletos y Paseo del Prado, exh. cat., Madrid, 2006)
While Indiana is often mentioned in the same bracket as Jasper Johns, Indiana's initial use of numbers in his work developed from a completely separate idea. Like Johns he a tends to conceal sources and significance. Unlike Johns, Indiana offers clues in the way he arranges outward symbols. Indiana has always been particularly fascinated with numbers, evident early in his career in the numbers he stenciled on his constructions, and progressively in the Dream series and Decade Autoportraits. These NUMBERS like words become both an object and a sign. Indiana calls them "the verbal-visual," something of great value in his oeuvre.