Isamu Noguchi's abstract sculpture explore issues of space, shape, and surface. It is with these notions in mind that he approaches the human figure, depicting its emptiness and fullness as if it were a landscape. In Head of a Young Girl the lines created in the process of molding the ceramic become the cartography of the face. They are the witness of its birth, revealing the process behind it, like scars from the creative moment when the artist poured the ceramic into the mold.
When it was first conceived, the sculpture was resting on a pillow, peaceful in her stillness, which explains the quiet look on the Japanese girl’s visage. Her tightly closed mouth and eyes and the attenuation of all drastic lines signal a light and dreamy state. The absence of noticeable hair gives this work a peculiar and abstracted shape. The expression is what is essential. When considered in a vertical position, the face seems to be meditating. What is she thinking about? “What is this person?” Noguchi asks, “What is this face?”
Even though this particular artwork has been cast in many materials, the Albright-Knox’s version is unique: it is Noguchi’s first ceramic work and the only ceramic portrait he ever made.
Object label from 2007 installation