Goldweight in the shape of a square, with a geometric pattern with a double "X" form in the center and edged teeth along two sides.
This is an example of a geometric goldweight, as they were used and produced by Akan-speaking peoples in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire between 1400 and 1900. Goldweights have long intrigued Western visitors to the region and are popular collectors' items; they have been objects of scholarly inquiry by European scholars since the beginning of the 17th century. Yet the multiplicity of meanings inscribed in these goldweights, sometimes associated with proverbs, goes beyond a simple equation of a particular form with a particular meaning, and includes the varied contexts in which the objects were used (from trade exchanges to court rituals), the conjunction with other weights, and the social position and relationship of the person using the weight for a particular audience.
Rectangular goldweight with geometric pattern consisting of lines and "edged teeth".
Goldweights have long been used by the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire as instruments of trade-- merchants would use these weights to weigh amounts of gold dust, which expressed the price for articles to be bought and sold. Niangoran-Bouah, a scholar who has studied gold weights extensively, explains how a merchant has two versions of each weight: a heavier, "male" weight used for buying, and a lighter, "female" weight for selling. A trader's profit would be in the difference between the heavier and lighter weight, which both corresponded to the same amount of gold dust. Niangoran-Bouah illustrates the principles behind this use of goldweights by analogy to the way contemporary Akan traders conduct their business and make a profit. For example, a trader might buy a sack of rice comprised of 100 measurement units for 1000 francs-- so, 10 francs per unit. She might go on to retail the rice using a slightly smaller container, still selling at 10 francs per unit. Her profit would be the difference between the two different measurements of rice obtained by using two different containers, times the price per unit (100 units when buying, and let's say 115 units when selling). Trading of objects using goldweights follows this same principle, and is thus different from a Western style of profit-making.
This work is a brown rectangle that contains a yellow circle and a yellow hexagon shape with red stencil lettering. At the bottom edge of the rectangle, below the yellow circle, is the word "hexagon". Within the the yellow circle are the words "external" and "hexagon" and within the yellow hexagon shape is a large "6".
This work is one of ten prints published within a portfolio, “Ten Works + Ten Painters”, commissioned by Samuel J. Wagstaff from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in 1964. This portfolio was one of the earliest to have several artists published together to make major American artists accessible to a wider audience and range of collectors. Each print in this portfolio was based on a painting the artists had previously created. Some of the artists represented, in addition to Robert Indiana, are Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly and Roy Lichtenstein, who were associated with the Pop and Minimalism art movements in the 1960s.