Twenty-one Golden Orbs is painted on wood that had been used to construct the interior walls of Indiana’s loft at 25 Coenties Slip. Unable to afford more than the occasional small canvas at this time, Indiana removed the plywood and Homasote panels and repurposed them for his paintings.
A drawing of the work in Indiana's journal, dated April 4, 1959, illustrates this work as a horizontal piece with the title “Twenty-first State.” He writes:
"This is what I have wanted to turn to for some time. It coming essentially from the twelve orbs, or apostles, from my largest work, but stymied when I saw Agnes’ [Martin] new direction into circles. It comes from ‘ΣΤΑΒΡΟΣΗΣ’ [Stavrosis] I think very really, in rearthink, from seeing [Barnett] Newman’s show. It now seems all the more clear the direction I must take. The natural line down the length of the board I intend to use to set up a tension, not yet seen in my work."
In 2001 Indiana revisited the work, repainting it in gold without altering the composition. The work was exhibited in 2009 at the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, with its current title.