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For Kan Yasuda

There was this enormous sculpture towering into arctic clear cold air. The sculpture itself was of this same nature, as though hewn out of ice. I could tell from even a photograph. Who was this sculptor who could conceive a piece of such belonging? It was not the horizon that defined it but a belonging to people, a mutuality suggested by the form.

My coming to know Yasuda Kan had always this question in the background. Was he really the man I thought he must be? Then along came another monument in the north; a group of smokestacks ending on top with birdlike cones that seemed to guard the bleak land against intruders. Can there be any doubt about those cones thumbing their noses every which way a decoy for missiles? What better protection could an artist offer than laughter?

Art is what counts of course. That which gives the quality to this humor. I like to think that the motivation doesn't matter, so long as it gets the artist going. But art is a response after all and this must be counted among its worth. For art itself to be the motive is another matter.

To produce a masterpiece must be the biggest mistake. I myself once thought I had done so with a sculpture I called Kouros after the archaic Greek. I made mine of pink marble 3 meters high. It was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946. At that time I had lunch with a wise man who said, "You must know you cannot make anything more than you are". He said, "Never make art that pleases you". I knew he meant my Kouros. "Only make what you dislike, but cannot help but do". I was at a loss to know where my aspiration as an artist might turn. Who was I to not aspire, nor ever become?

Yasuda was fortunate in being able to bypass art and produce so fine a work, although he will no doubt insist this was his sole intention. Again I would say he is fortunate in knowing when to insist on the process of art to protect his integrity.

When I was last in Italy at Giorgio Angeli's workshop in Querceta where both Kan and I work, I saw a recent sculpture of his which I thought came from a similar area of search which transcends art. I felt that perhaps he did not know what to make of it. Is there such a thing as better? I never asked but I wonder whether he really liked it to fulfill Ducham's dictum.

Yasuda's work like that of many artists runs on two tracks. One may be named art's art and the other, the other. My remarks are directed to the other. Art's art is the artist's difficult conscience. It is his past development to which he owes all that he has become. It reveals his inner self, or so he thinks. But that of course is his most serious problem. How to develop in depth betrayals true message. It is the artist's obligation to change into his ever widening perception. Kan has expressed it with his forked squares where he denies himself and all his skills.

I know intimately of what I write.

Isamu Noguchi


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