This article considers the Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley and the visual artist Robert Indiana’s 1968 collaboration Numbers. Featuring Indiana’s ten screen prints of the cardinal digits 0–9 and Creeley’s poetic meditations on the same theme, the book form provokes a unique reading and viewing experience in its audience, calling attention to the intimate relation between word and image. Though rarely examined in its original interdisciplinary form—in part because many of the twenty-five hundred first edition copies now reside in special or private collections where access to them is limited—Numbers is a remarkable visual-verbal collaboration. Not only is it a beautiful, sumptuously colored book, it is a deeply affective exploration in both verse and print of what might otherwise seem the most routine or mundane of figures. Throughout the collaboration Creeley and Indiana imbue each number with personal resonance, countering the depersonalization and “massification” of much late 1960s art and politics. Unearthing an essential, dialectical relation between the singular I and the community through their use of serial forms, Creeley and Indiana reimagine a lyric subjectivity that is always “more than one.” Together the artists probe the ways numbers pervade our individual and collective consciousnesses: how they become measures of our human lives.
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Alexandra J. Gold; Forms of Accounting: Robert Creeley and Robert Indiana’s Numbers. Genre 1 December 2018; 51 (3): 295–323. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-7190532
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