PRINT November 2004

Anne M. Wagner

CONTEXT MATTERS. When I first came across Isamu Noguchi’s astonishing carving, 1000 Horsepower Heart, I was leafing through Stanley Casson’s Sculpture of To-day—the “day” being 1939. The book’s date and title say it all: Not only is it one of those texts that aim to characterize a moment, but it also casts its net wide, as if to acknowledge that the moment in question demanded a serious effort at breadth. The result, unsurprisingly, was dismal. The year 1939 was not a great one for anything much, sculpture included. Within Casson’s pages, a few survivals of avant-garde abstraction rubbed elbows with many strong, striding manly figures, pieces by the now-unsung likes of Ivan Mestrovic, Romano Romanelli, and Hermann Pagels. And then there was Noguchi’s carved heart of 1938. The thing is presented like a motor extracted from a chassis; from what might be lobed ventricles rises a terrifying

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