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June 12, 1979 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-06-12

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The Michigan Daily--Tuesday, June 12, 1979--Page 11
Random, artificial finely blended

For all the perpetual change of
modern art, much is still told in the way
the artist relates to his influences. Im-
portant choices must be made about
how much to draw from what has come
before, as well as about how much to
leave out. Going either route;
necessitates courageous decisions. For
every artist who fails to rise above'
derivation, there is a case of an artist
who has eliminated so many
possibilities for himself that he finds
himself absolutely sourceless.
Isamu Noguchi is the sort of artist
who constantly summons up in his work
a great deal of what he has learned.
What "Noguchi's Imaginary Lan-
dscapes," at the Detroit Institute of Ar-
ts through June17, shows us most about
Noguchi is his remarkable ability to

simple figure rising gracefully upward
with its tall, square column of alter-
nating serpentine and marble brick-
shaped slabs.
In every part of the room, older ideas
are fused with Noguchi's. The hall is
filled with objects created over a span
of four decades, but closely linked
chronologically by their remarkable
stylistic unity.
There are several exceptions to this
decade-spanning unity, such as the con-
structivist works, the most notable of
which is the sparse and delicately
chilling work of cloth, string, and wood
called "The World is a Foxhole."
become more rareified with his plans
and models for various contourings of
land. From easily understandable
works like plavrounds and parks to the

TAKE, FOR instance, his "This Tor-
tured Earth." If it could somehow be
conceived asa painting, "Earth" would
retain an almost abstract ex-
pressionistic nature by way of its
violent gashes and rude dips. But
because it is an established part of
man's environment (or would be, if
realized), "Earth" is also a work of art
that would affect everyone, even the
person who didn't know he was in the
presence of "art."
This duality, evident in the lan-
dscapes, is found variously expressed
throughout Noguchi's work. On the one
hand a dreamlike, free-flowing ran-
domness takes over, as can be seen in
his experiments with Japanese gar-
dens, or in his minimal, brilliant set
designs and props for the Martha
Graham Dancers; on the other hand,
there is a reverence for work which
displays profoundly the labor of human
hands, a penchant for using shining
metallic surfaces and geometricity.
Such works as his massive "Cube
Poised on a Point" in New York (star-
tlingly - and probably not accidentally
- our own cube on People's Plaza looks
much like it) and "Intetra," a large
stainless steel pyramidic fountain,
exhibit this desire for a machine-like,
or at least machine-worked, aura.
Noguchi's works at both ends of this
spectrum offer very deep - and very
different - rewards. However, the
most satisfying work, the work which
can both inspire and fascinate
simultaneously, is that which combines
the two. Much of his Brancusi-like
sculpture does this, as does his "Mud
Mountain," a piece of basalt with con-
trasting eroded-looking and polished
MOST NOTABLE for those in and
around the Motor City however, this in-
terplay can be, seen in the fountain at
Dodge Plaza in Detroit. The fountain it-
self seems very machine-oriented, with
its powerful and simple geometrical
form and its emphasized metallic con-

Yet not only is the fountain a sculp-
ture, it creates sculpture, reacting to
such things as the weather, forming a
single endlessly-varying sculpture with
its water jets. For all the sensors and
meters and miles of cable we know to
be on the inside, what we observe when
we see the water jets spouting is-an art
form incredibly closely linked to its
changing environment, art eerily
removed from human influence. The
Dodge fountain is a wondrous human-
made and man-oriented symbol of
heroic dimensions, as well as an
ingenious exhibition of transformation
and randomness in art. This integration
of the random and natural with that
which is human-made is perhaps the
greatest theme uniting the work found
in "Landscapes." It is a wide-open
theme that invites great exploration,
and that also opens the artist up to
charges of directionlessness. However,
Noguchi's "Imaginary Landscapes"
clearly succeeds, because it presents us
with a sampling of the work of an artist
who seems never to create without a
firm understanding of what he wants to
do, or without a conviction in his ability
to accomplish it. The large group of
works is extraordinarily intriguing and
moving, and of an order few living
sculptors can match.
AVENUE at LBERTY ST. 761-9700
Formerly.Ftth Forum Theater
"One of the movie mile-
stones of the decade"

Nogucnls mask for Urpheus was used in the Martha Graham production of
the modern dance work. The central tube covers the dancer's eyes, sym-
bolizing the character's metaphorical blindness.

forge a strong personal identity while
unselfconsciously displaying ideas in-
fluenced by such people as Miro, Bran-
cusi, Arp and the constructivists
squarely on his sleeve. Through a
strong combination of sculptures, set
designs, and models and plans for real
and proposed land works, "Imaginary
Landscapes" presents Noguchi as an
artist for whom development means
broadening approaches as much as it
does refining a personal style.
THE LARGE room full of sculpture
that is the first part of the exhibit im-
mediately confronts the viewer with the
broadness of Noguchi's powers. There
are several stand-up works of in-
terlocking pieces, made in the forties,
which summon up the work of the
surrealists in their vaguely animal-like
forms and their mysteriously intrusive
presences. There is the marvelous
"Spirit in Flight," evocative both in'
title and in form of much of Brancusi's
work. Noguchi, who apprenticed to
Brancusi for several years, follows
Brancusi theme of the thin, elegantly:

sculptor's famed (and as yet unbuilt)
"Sculpture To Be Seen From Mars,"
Noguchi's individual drive becomes
more prominent.
Decades before Earthworks were
planned and created en mass by sixties'
artists, Noguchi had pioneered the
notion of the sculpted earth. And if his
landscaping projects seem to have little
direct connection to the Earthworks
movement, Noguchi's remarkable at-
tempts to make man's total environ-
ment a work of art are undeniable.
Traces of those who influenced his
sculpture still persist; his "Contoured
Playground For New York" appears to
be a three-dimensional conception of
Miro's biomorphs, and much of the
equipment he has designed for his
playgrounds seems highly construc-
tivist (not to mention unsafe). But what
far and away dominates is Noguchi's
own imaginativeness, an
imaginativeness that masterfully
achieves both a sort of symbolic, organi-
cally mysterious expressiveness as
well as a practical, -universa

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