In the years after World War II, Isamu Noguchi designed stage sets and costumes for the most advanced choreographers of the day: Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine. This sculpture was originally an element of the stage design for Graham’s 1950 Judith, a dramatization in dance of the Old Testament story in which the Hebrew widow saves Jerusalem by seducing the dreaded invader Holofernes and beheading him in his own bed. The structure in the Garden—originally made of balsa wood and recast by Noguchi in bronze nearly thirty years later—was covered with one of Graham’s signature flowing cloths to form a tent at the moment of the dramatic deed. The fragile balance of the sculpture’s four skeletal, weaponlike elements imparts the tense excitement of the story’s dangerous scheme and recalls other of the artist’s gravity-defying sculptures of the period. His 1947 pieces Avatar and Cronos, also in the Walker’s permanent collection, are similar assemblages of slender elements joined together in an intricate system of balance.
© 1998 Walker Art Center