Robert Indiana had a long-held fascination with the power of numbers, a subject which stands as one of his most important iconographic themes. The artist credited his enduring interest in numbers to the formative experience of moving multiple times as a child; by the age of seventeen he had lived in twenty-one different homes.
Indiana began applying numbers to his sculptural assemblages and paintings in the early 1960s, and by the mid-1960s numbers as a subject in their own right had become one of the signature motifs of his painting. Works include the Number series (1964–65), first exhibited in Robert Indiana, at the Rolf Nelson Gallery, Los Angeles, May 10–June 5, 1965, and the 1966 Cardinal Number series, canvases ranging in size from 12 x 12 inches to 60 x 50 inches. The artist considered zero to stand for the tenth digit, thus his numbers are arranged as One Through Zero.
This work, one of his later number works, is yellow and black, colors which Indiana noted came directly from traffic signs, and that to him inferred danger. The artist also employed this color combination in the paintings Golden Zero (1964), USA 666 (The Sixth American Dream) (1964–66) Exploding Numbers (1964–66), and Nine (1965).