• Robert Indiana, Five, 1984, painted wood ceiling beam, wood dowel, wood block, and metal wheels, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1984.39, © 1984, Robert Indiana

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Robert Indiana conceived this sculpture as a companion piece to his 1963 painting The Figure Five, and as a return to sculpting after a decades-long break. Indiana originally began making a series of assemblage sculptures in 1959, from salvaged parts of his former home in Coenties Slip, New York. He called the assemblages “herms” after the Greek hermae, stone pillars that marked boundaries or borders in the ancient world, often topped by busts of Hermes, the messenger to the gods in classical mythology. He stenciled numbers, single words, or geometric shapes onto his assemblages, echoing his print work. Indiana’s herms all have the same set of details, including primary colors, a word or number, wheels, and a small protruding dowel located toward the bottom of the sculpture. Each element has a specific, and often autobiographical, meaning to Indiana. The wheels represent the passage of time, the star represents the gas station where that artist's father worked when Indiana was a boy, the numbers are associated with important dates in his life, and the dowel alludes to his homosexuality.

Not on view
69 1/8 x 26 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. (175.6 x 67.9 x 47.0 cm.)
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Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the artist

Mediums Description
painted wood ceiling beam, wood dowel, wood block, and metal wheels
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