Early critics read Indiana’s work like a riddle; even in a practice that was rooted in numerical divination and the ancient I Ching, this sculpture pays the most endless dividends. Combinations and permutations of its arrangement or installation are infinite. Indiana believed that numbers held life’s hidden secrets and that “everyone kind of drifts into some projection of their own experience.” NUMBERS ONE through ZERO is then exactly like Brancusi’s mirror; the progression of familiar shapes portrays life’s endless emotions. For example, ONE’s triumphant combination of red and blue is also a signifier for birth’s physical tumult; the white and blue on FIVE evoke a transition from adolescence; SEVEN’s autumnal hues gently remind of a forthcoming sunset; NINE, in yellow and black, warns of an impending end.
NUMBERS’ labyrinth of references might even call to mind the masterful work of Renaissance masters; however, no codex is needed. Each arrangement of this sculpture that reflects back to the viewer will add up correctly.
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