Isaac Witkin

AMERICAN, BORN SOUTH AFRICA, 1936–2006

Isaac Witkin’s energetic, complex works demand to be seen from every angle if the viewer is to grasp the relationship between their parts. As the artist once commented, “I am basically a Baroque sculptor, in the sense that I avoid any strict adherence to the plane and to symmetrical layout. I aim to establish a freedom to move in multiaxial space in a way that will draw the spectator in and around the sculpture to experience different aspects of an evolving dynamic.” Material choice is essential to achieving this effect; as Witkin observed, “Steel was the key to spatial freedom. It helped me to get away from the monolith and from making sculpture with a spine.”

The open, linear design of Kumo, Japanese for “cloud,” exemplifies this freedom in its graceful, floating curved forms. Birth of Aphrodite evokes mythic and poetic associations. Composed of pan-like forms cut from acid tanks, its watery trails of rust allude to the goddess’s origins in the sea. The changing perspectives encountered in viewing Shogun—so named, Witkin said, for “its seated, brooding, warrior-like confrontation, while the zigzag shapes resemble a samurai helmet”—exemplify his multiaxial orientation.

Isaac Witkin
Shogun, 1968
Weathering steel
6' 3" x 11' x 9' 5"

Isaac Witkin
Shogun, 1968
Weathering steel
6' 3" x 11' x 9' 5"
Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation

ISAAC WITKIN
KUMO, 1971
WEATHERING STEEL
16'4" X 13'4" X 12'2"

ISAAC WITKIN
KUMO, 1971
WEATHERING STEEL
16'4" X 13'4" X 12'2"
GIFT OF THE RALPH E. OGDEN FOUNDATION

ISAAC WITKIN
BIRTH OF APHRODITE, 1977–78 
STEEL
6'10" X 15" X 12"

ISAAC WITKIN
BIRTH OF APHRODITE, 1977–78
STEEL
6'10" X 15" X 12"
PURCHASED WITH THE AID OF FUNDS FROM THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS AND GIFT OF THE RALPH E. OGDEN FOUNDATION