PWC Eve Lot 72B Noguchi interview
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
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Property from the Estate of Ronald P. Stanton
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)

Shiva Rock

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
Shiva Rock
incised with the artist's initials and date 'I.N. 81' (lower edge)
36 x 24 x 19 1/2 in. (91.4 x 60.9 x 49.5 cm.)
Executed in 1981.
Pace Gallery, New York
Royal Marks, New York
His sale; Sotheby's, New York, 17 November 1992, lot 32
Alice Lawrence, Ridgefield
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2008
New York, Pace Gallery, Isamu Noguchi: New Sculpture, May-June 1983, pp. 9 and 23 (illustrated in color and on the cover).

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Lot Essay

The American-born Isamu Noguchi, an avid traveler of the world, especially to the Japan he was raised in, integrated his international cultural experiences in his artwork often using materials obtained in his travels. Throughout his lifetime, he would repeatedly return to the ancient temples of Italy, Greece, India, Indonesia and Cambodia, bringing back wisdom attained from these ancient cultures and different types of marble, stone and rocks from each of these places to transform into sculptures aimed to reveal the unique spiritual essence held within each form. Named for Shiva, the Hindu goddess of creation, destruction and transformation, Shiva Rock reflects Noguchi’s time in India. More specifically, with its contrasting surface textures—mottled, smoothed and the natural stubble of the rock juxtaposed with a trifecta of colors—matte black, stippled brown and pebbled grey—this work references the shiva lingam stones important to the Hindu religion.

These lingam stones are elongated egg-shaped mineral formations that occur naturally in the Narmada River in India, a sacred site in the Hindu religion. Because of their unusual sensuous oval shape, Shiva stones are believed to contain the divine energetic properties of both the sacred masculine and sacred feminine within. Noguchi’s version of a Shiva Rock is an artistic interpretation of the sacred stone. Its surface is a study of texture, with each of three colors meeting at multiple points on its dimensional frame. Three perfect circles of different sizes and finishes mark different perspectives on the stone and contrast the natural elegance of its form with the symbol of unity in the Hindu religion and others. The artist often chose the stones he wanted to work with based on the elemental energetic forces he felt within the rocks. Basalt is a stone born of volcanic eruption when lava cools and hardens. Understanding that stones, like other animate beings, were energetically alive, Noguchi’s goal in any sculpture made of stone was to communicate this aliveness to his viewers. As the art historian Dore Ashton wrote, “Thinking in terms of stones altered Noguchi’s vision and his approach to sculpture. He was obliged to take into account their history as products of great spans of time and infinite number of hidden forces” (D. Ashton, Noguchi: East and West, New York, 1992, p. 163).

In the artist’s first trips to the East, Noguchi traveled through India, China and Japan following an itinerary designed by Tenshin Okakura (1862-1913), a turn-of-the-twentieth-century Japanese scholar, following the spiritual continuum of different forms of Buddhism between these countries. Ashton writes: “India set him ever more obdurately in quest of the appropriate voice, the precise voice that could speak of both the modern and the ancient in the same breath and express his own aspirations to create sculpture before the institutionalized world of gallery and museum” (Ibid., p. 87).

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