Demuth American Dream, No. 5
© 2020 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Robert Indiana, who is best known for the LOVE insignia, has always had an interest in combining visual art and the written word. In 1980, the artist issued a print series based on his painting Demuth American Dream, No. 5 (1963), an homage to Charles Demuth’s painting, I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928), as well as William Carlos Williams’s earlier poem, The Great Figure. This tribute, repeating Demuth’s visual language with slight variations, devotes each panel to a different word: EAT, HUG, DIE, and ERR.
Additionally, Indiana noted a special coincidence between the three 5’s visible in Demuth’s paintings—later appropriated in his own paintings and prints—and the number “35” (thirty-five, or three-five) in their lives. Namely, that Demuth died in 1935, and there were 35 years between the date of Demuth’s painting and Williams’s death in 1963, which happened to be the year Indiana turned 35 years old. In the words of Indiana, their deaths and his tribute completed “the unpremeditated circle of numerical coincidence woven within the ‘Fifth Dream.’”