25 Coenties Slip, July 20, 1957 depicts the second building, a former ship chandlery, in which Robert Indiana lived after he moved to the Coenties Slip neighborhood, a three-block-long area on the East River at the southern tip of Manhattan. Once one of the broadest and busiest slips, commercial blocks were built along the adjoining streets to service the shipping industry. The area became increasingly abandoned as the city’s port activity moved to the west side, and its affordable rents began to attract artists looking for studio space. Indiana moved into the area in 1956 at the recommendation of Ellsworth Kelly, whom he had met while selling art supplies at E. H. & A. C. Friedrichs Company. Kelly followed him a few weeks later, and within the year artists including Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, Ann Wilson, and Jack Youngerman were also living there.
Experimentalism characterized the work of the artists inhabiting the area, and the Slip’s historic environment frequently served as a source of inspiration both in terms of materials and subjects. In 1957, Indiana produced a series of drawings capturing life on the Slip, documenting its ships, streets, buildings, and inhabitants. The area’s past as a center of commerce is evident in 25 Coenties Slip, July 20, 1957, with the names of the wares once sold there written boldly down the façade of the building. Partly visible on the ground level is the restaurant Rincon de España, which, Indiana recounted in a 1963 interview with Richard Brown Baker, catered to the Spanish Line, one of the few companies that still docked on the East River. To the left of Indiana’s building is 27 Coenties Slip, which had been leased by Youngerman and his wife Delphine Seyrig, who rented space to Tawney, Martin, and Wilson.