Indiana lived in Coenties Slip, a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, from 1956–65. There he turned to the local environment for inspiration, sketching marine scenes and taking designs and names on ships and barges as a basis for ideas for his paintings. Bardrock and its companion painting Hardrock (1961) were inspired by an inscription on the side of a barge; both are a variant of Trap Rock, the name of a company whose barges Indiana often watched from the Slip. 
In a November 7, 1963, interview with Richard Brown Baker Indiana referred to Bardrock as as "the seed painting" for The Calumet (1961), and noted that he gifted the painting to Campbell Wylly, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, who had helped him connect with Stable Gallery.
 Susan Elizabeth Ryan, Robert Indiana: Figures of Speech (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 142.