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Exhibition explores the formal and conceptual potential of physics and motion in sculpture
Installation view, ​Jorge Palacios at The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, NY, September 26,  2018–January 20, 2019.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- The Noguchi Museum presents the work of Spanish sculptor Jorge Palacios with an exhibition of works that explore the formal and conceptual potential of physics and motion in sculpture. In so doing, they shed light on what R. Buckminster Fuller called Isamu Noguchi’s intuitive grasp of the underlying structures of nature and his habit of incorporating those insights into his conception of sculpture. Jorge Palacios at The Noguchi Museum includes nine works in the Museum’s ground-floor galleries and garden. A large-scale public monument has also been installed on Manhattan’s Flatiron Plaza North.

Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart says, “Jorge Palacios’s beautifully engineered abstractions are a terrific prism through which to view Noguchi’s way of playing with nature in the cause of strengthening the connections between the planet we have and the world we make. Like Noguchi, Palacios is an idealist. The simplicity and directness with which he models the physical universe, from the atom to the hurricane, will remind you of what it was like to learn physics on the merry-go-round and the swing.”

Jorge Palacios at The Noguchi Museum includes nine works installed in three of the Museum’s indoor galleries and its sculpture garden. While all of the sculptures are made of wood, Palacios is not, in fact, interested in exploring wood per se, but rather in how he can use it to articulate the laws of nature. To do this, he has spent the last twenty years learning to make wood seem to flow.

One of the indoor galleries contains five works concerned with fluid dynamics at different scales. Flowing Drop (2017) and Trajectory (2015) derive form from the ways that fluids move and affect motion. Others look at larger forces, such as those that produce hurricanes and whirlpools. Continuous Vortex (2011), for example, explores the shape of the self-reinforcing circulation of air in a tornado.

Another gallery contains a single new kinetic sculpture that puts mass into motion. OkiagariKoboshi (2018) is named for, and based on the same principles of physics as, a traditional Japanese doll that cannot be knocked down. Like that doll, and the later Hasbro toy called a Weeble, Palacios’s 5.5-foot-tall sculpture, with which visitors are encouraged to play, challenges our intuitive understanding of the way things work. Few sculptors have done more than Noguchi to expand the practice of sculpture beyond static things that inertly occupy museum pedestals and corporate plazas. With Okiagari-Koboshi, explicitly following the example of Noguchi’s playground sculptures, Palacios has wandered onto the field of play.

Okiagari-Koboshi is complemented by a group of plaster maquettes from the mid-1960s that Noguchi made while thinking about playgrounds, as well as one for Red Cube, which appears to balance on one point on the plaza in front of 140 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

In other galleries, Palacios’s work is integrated into the Museum’s permanent installation of sculptures by Noguchi. One work, Balance and Inertia (2011), a 6.5-foot pierced wooden disc, conveys the vertical balance a spinning coin achieves so long as its rotational energy is enough to offset gravity. The Singularity of the Curve (2017), also in this gallery, reifies the mathematics that underlie the interaction between the gravitational force that two massive bodies (here, the sculpture’s end blocks) exert on each other.

Finally, Palacios’s Weightless Movement (2018) is suspended from a branch of the central Katsura tree in the Museum’s sculpture garden. The pointedly oxymoronic title (which faintly recalls Noguchi’s 1961 exhibition of cut-and-folded aluminum and carved balsa wood sculptures entitled “Weightlessness”) reminds us that mass is a precondition of motion. A nearly 2.5-foot-long teak column with a hole near the bottom, Weightless Movement is a playful effort to raise our conception of the mass of Noguchi’s rock garden into the air.

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