Audio: Isamu Noguchi, Man Walking
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989)
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Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989)

Man Walking

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989)
Man Walking
anodized aluminum
86 5/8 x 30½ x 37 in. (220 x 77.4 x 93.9 cm.)
Executed in 1959. This work is unique.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Marx from Maymar Corporation to the present owner
AIC Bulletin, Vol. 56, no. 2, 1962, Art Institute of Chicago, p. 33 (illustrated).
I. Noguchi, Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor's World, New York and Evanston, Illinois, 1968 (illustrated in color).
N. Grove and D. Botnick, The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 1924-1979, A Catalogue, New York, 1980, p. 86, no. 487 (illustrated).
N. Grove, Isamu Noguchi: A Study of the Sculpture, New York and London, 1985.
New York, Cordier & Warren Gallery, Noguchi: Weightlessness, May-June 1961.
The Art Institute of Chicago, 65th American Exhibition, January-February 1962, no. 53.

Lot Essay

Executed in 1959, Man Walking is a poignant example of the morphologic abstract sculptures for which the artist has become most well-known. Noguchi employs every consideration and level of detail in the finishing of the surface, negative space and formulation of line, resulting in a dynamic and graceful sculpture that evokes a figure in motion. "The essence of sculpture is for me, the perception of space, the continuum of our existence.Movement, light and time itself are also qualities of space. Space is otherwise inconceivable. These are the essence of sculpture and as our concepts of them change, so must our sculpture change. I say it is the sculptor who orders and animates space, gives it meaning" (I. Noguchi, in artist's statement, Fourteen Americans, quoted in, Noguchi: A Sculptor's World, New York, 1968, p. 28). Indeed, the present work recalls certain forms first developed in the seminal sculpture, Kouros, 1945, where curvilinear elements convey the sense of balance and shifting states of movement in a static object.

Man Walking signals a dramatic departure from his work in stone-marble, granite and wood. The present work, executed in a dark, glistening anodized aluminum, is an early metal sculpture created by the artist who would go on to work more extensively with cast bronze. The structural levity and smooth, refined finish of the metal, furthers the effect of motion and dynamism. The new material also held a conceptual significance for the artist whose own international background established important paradigms which he continued to explore throughout his artistic career. Noguchi explained that in 1958, "Returning [to New York] I was always struck by the contrasts of America, Japan and the rest of the world; the difference in materialitythe concepts of reality, which is not just a question of place but of the modern versus the old world. It seemed absurd to me to be working with rocks and stones in New York, where walls of glass and steel are our horizonthe new materials remake the world. It is the world of the airplane, of speed," (ibid., p. 35). Noguchi described the fabrication of these new aluminum sculptures, explaining that by creating them from a single piece of metal, a certain "unity" was achieved, "deny[ing] weight and substance" (ibid., p. 36).

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