Please wait

Robert Indiana

b. 1928

The X-5

1963

Robert Indiana, The X-5, 1963  64.9a-e
Robert Indiana, The X-5, 1963. Oil on canvas, five units, 36 × 36 in (91.4 × 91.4 cm) each; 108 × 108 in. (274.3 x 274.3 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  64.9a-e For Teachers
© 2009 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

about this work

Like many Pop artists of the 1960s, Robert Indiana transforms familiar words, letters, and numbers into large, vibrantly colored icons derived from the emblems of advertising and consumer culture. His paintings, he said, are about “that happy transmutation of the Lost into the Found, the Neglected into the Wanted, the Unloved into the Loved.” The X-5 is one of a series that Indiana made in homage to Charles Demuth’s The Figure 5 in Gold (1928), one of his favorite paintings. Demuth’s painting, in turn, was inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem, The Great Figure: “I saw the figure 5 on a red fire truck moving. . .through the dark city.” Indiana reworked the hard-edged figures and bold colors of Demuth’s image into an unusually structured work of layered geometries—the numeral superimposed on a star and a pentagon set within a circle. Indiana repeated this configuration on five separate canvas squares arranged into an X-shape, a form inspired by the danger crossing signs at railroad tracks.

look closer

How would you describe this painting?

What kinds of symbols does the artist use in this painting?

Have you seen those symbols before?

Does this painting remind you of anything? If so, what?

Activities

64
Robert Indiana, The X-5, 1963  64.9a-e For Teachers

Much of the imagery in Robert Indiana’s paintings alludes to life in small-town America. He depicts billboards, highway signs, roadside motels, and restaurants. Like many Pop artists of the 1960s, Indiana transforms familiar words, letters, and numbers into large, vibrantly colored icons derived from the emblems of advertising and consumer culture.

Indiana made The X-5 in homage to Charles Demuth’s The Figure 5 in Gold, one of his favorite paintings. Compare the two paintings. What are some similarities and differences? What elements of Demuth’s painting did Indiana change or keep? Why might he have wanted to recreate Demuth’s painting?

Read more