Throughout Indiana's career, he has articulated a personal narrative through the graphic language of "signs." His paintings leave no doubt that each composition's numbers, letters and shapes are intended to convey a message, however clear or cryptic it may seem. Carl Weinhardt writes, "[Indiana] has used his chosen vocabulary for nostalgic recollection and historic high points that had a particular impact on him; and, especially during the 1960s, as a 'people's painter,' for social satire and commentary as well" (C. Weinhardt, Jr., Robert Indiana, New York, 1990, p. 80).
The present work, Spring, is a boldly graphic work with words, letters and numbers that Indiana assembles within a dynamic composition that compells the viewer to seek a deeper understanding of the work. The bright green word "SPRING" leaps from the strong red background, below a circular composition that is centered on a mirror-image monogram of the initial "K." The destinations "Paris" and "New York" and "VLM" form the border of the circle. These "signs" point the viewer to Indiana's expansive loft home/studio building, located on the corner of Spring and Bowery, to which he moved from Coenties Slip in 1971. The initial "K" reference the name of Indiana's landlord, Jack Klein, who was born in Ulm, Germany in 1929, and who chose this painting in return for overdue rent.
Indiana's move to the Bowery studio was perhaps as influential to his body of work as de Kooning's move to East Hampton, given the impact that the new studio had on the artist's production. The tall building had four exposures of the upper floors, a freight elevator and a private gallery on the ground floor. Within this building, Indiana would establish a studio for each of the mediums in which he was working: painting, drawing, printing and sculpture. There was also ample space to include his archives, library, office and living quarters.
Indiana's Spring, therefore, represents a unique hommage to a classic subject that artists throughout history have explored: the artist's studio. Rather than depicting the appearance of the building itself, Indiana's words and colors are evocative of his passionate feelings for his home and workplace. The date of this painting is particularly important, since Indiana was to move permanently from the Bowery studio later in the year to his current home and studio, the Star of Hope Lodge, in Vinalhaven, Maine.