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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.

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