The Red Diamond American Dream #3 was the first of Indiana’s works to be acquired by a European museum, the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Compositionally and thematically the painting relates to and builds upon the two preceding works in his American Dream series; it is dominated by four circles, and, as in The Black Diamond American Dream #2 (1962), the number of the Dream and the text “The American Dream” are contained in the bottom circle. Also, like the second work in the series, it is diamond shaped; however, it consists of four panels. This modularity, the grouping of several canvases into a single work, is a format the artist adopted for many of his paintings, including all subsequent Dreams.
The Red Diamond American Dream #3, like the earlier Dreams, is both autobiographical and a commentary on the concept of the American Dream. The circle in the top panel contains the numbers of highways that not only figure prominently in American automobile culture, but had personal significance for the artist, all being routes on which he had lived. The “66” is of particular significance, illustrating the multiple meanings that numbers take on in Indiana’s work. It alludes to his father, who was born in June, the sixth month, worked for the gas company Phillips 66, and who, Indiana recalled, drove west on Route 66 when he abandoned his family. The pinball culture referenced in the earlier Dreams appears in the left central panel, where “tilt” is surrounded by numbers that bring to mind those found on the machines’ playing boards. The panel to the right contains the word “take,” surrounded by “all,” repeated four times, highlighting the take all ethic that pervades not only gambling but many other realms of life. This cynical view of the American Dream is further emphasized through the painting’s palette; the combination of red, black, and white, along with the yellow contours around the polygons inside the four circles, gives the work a stark and aggressive quality.