Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)

Mirror (Torso)

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
Mirror (Torso)
stamped Isamu Noguchi Foundation, numbered and dated '1944-94 1/6' (on the base element)
95½ x 36½ x 27½ in. (242.5 x 92.7 x 69.8 cm.)
Conceived in 1944 and cast in 1994. This work is number one from an edition of six plus two artist's proofs.
The Isamu Noguchi Foundation, New York
PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
N. Grove and D. Botnick, The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 1924-1979: A Catalogue, New York, 1980, no. 213C (wood set piece illustrated).
Tokyo, Sezon Bijutsukan, Isamu Noguchi and Rosanjin Kitaoji, 1996, p. 131 (another example illustrated).
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey and Museo Rufino Tamayo, Noguchi and the Figure, exh. cat., 1999, p. 100 (another example illustrated).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and Musée de Strasbourg, The Surrealists in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School, exh. cat., 1999, p. 256 (another example illustrated).
Modena, Foro Boario, From Modigliani to the Contemporary, exh. cat., 2003, pp. 88-89 (another example illustrated).
Museo de Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Roverto, Il Palcoscenico delle Avanguardie, exh. cat., 2005 (another cast exhibited).

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Robert Manley
Robert Manley

Lot Essay

The graceful and biomorphic curves of Isamu Noguchi's Mirror (Torso) reach skyward like an elegantly poised ballet dancer standing en pointe. Commissioned by the pioneering choreographer and dancer Martha Graham for her production of Herodiade, this work succinctly captures Noguchi's ideas about form and space. Graham asked Noguchi to create a set around the concept of the bleached bones of a woman - a skeleton of the physical and emotional sense. Noguchi created an environment that consisted of four elements: a wood wall painted black and three wood sculptures painted white. The wall represented a mirror or reflecting space and the sculptures the bones; the pieces have also been interpreted as furniture from a woman's dressing room. The dance was a meditation on the womens' past and future, on love and death.

The present work, Mirror (Torso), is the only work from the Herodiade set to be cast in bronze, although the original intent was to cast all of the sculptures. Noguchi often cast earlier works in bronze years after they were originally conceived in marble, including important pieces such as Remembrance and Avatar. The dark color, reflective surface and manifest weight of the bronze generates a completely different effect than the original marble, or in this case wood, sculptures. Noguchi's transformation of these forms into bronze lends them an ageless and heroic quality.

Noguchi's aesthetic reflects his interest in natural material and the creation of forms in space. In this respect he owes much to the biomorphic forms of the sculpture of Hans Arp. After studying in Paris for two years he worked briefly as a studio assistant for Constantin Brancusi and became friends with the sculptor Alexander Calder. These contacts gave him the confidence to begin exploring his own ideas about the formal nature of sculpture. His sensitivity to subtle changes in form and material combined with his unrivalled ability to design for space are clearly visible in Mirror (Torso). The importance of this work to Noguchi's oeuvre can be seen by the fact that another example from this edition is in the permanent collection of the Isamu Noguchi Museum in New York.

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