07 July 2007
sculpture: model for This Tortured Earth.
sculptor: Isamu Noguchi.
materials: bronze casting (from original in plaster or magnesite)
dimensions: 28" x 28" x 4".
"The idea of sculpting the earth followed me through the years, with mostly playground models as metaphor, but then there were others. This Tortured Earth was my concept for a large area to memorialize the tragedy of war. There is injury to the earth itself. The war machine, I thought, would be excellent equipment for sculpture, to bomb it into existence."
-- Isamu Noguchi.
It's unclear whether Noguchi considered this model for a large scale earthwork sculpture to be considered metaphorically or as an actual proposal. The story is that he'd seen an aerial photograph of a bombed area in North Africa and was struck by the incredible malleability of the earth as a medium for three dimensional sculptural exploration. From the title and his comment regarding the "tragedy of war, it seems clear he saw this approach as an opportunity to make a statement about the destructiveness of war.
His rendering of the earth as a tortured surface suggests a living being that's been torn, damaged, and deformed as a human body might be following torture. It seems to draw upon the analogy common to many world cultures of the idea of the earth as a mother, as a source of life and regeneration. Noguchi explored these themes throughout his career in representational, symbolic, and abstract works.
Here is a link to an alternative view of this work looking directly downward on the model.
Archival photograph from The Noguchi Foundation, Inc..