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PRINT November 2004

Josiah McElheny

WHEN NOGUCHI represented the United States at the 1986 Venice Biennale, two years before his death, the centerpiece of his exhibition was a large, abstract, Carrara marble sculpture that functioned as a playground slide. Although originally conceived in the ’60s when Noguchi created two wonderful tabletop sculptures depicting its general form, the full-scale version, Slide Mantra, was not realized until Venice, where it dominated the courtyard of the US pavilion. A second version was completed posthumously in shining black stone, effectively his final work. Today both versions of the slide are installed in parks, where they exist simultaneously as immense, elegant artworks and as actors in the secular world of play.

For me these works represent what is most compelling about Noguchi, that is, how he engaged the subject of use in relation to art. Here I am defining usefulness not simply in

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