Isaac Witkin b. 1936
T01394 Shogun 1968
Painted steel, 67¿ x 121¼ x 102 (171 x 30.8 x 259).
Presented by Alistair McAlpine 1971.
Exh: The Alistair Ale Alpine Gift, Tate Gallery, June-August 1971 (59, repr. in colour).
Lit: Michael Compton, in catalogue of The Alistair McAlpine Gift, 1971, pp. 123–6.
The sculpture is in an edition of four.
The artist wrote (Catalogue, Bennington College, Vermont 1971): ‘Shogun was inspired by the concavity which I found so compelling on the back of “Angola”. It occurred to me that sculpture had never been about concavity as such but dealt always with the convex bulge which resulted from a pressure within. The result seemed to suck one into the work.’
In a letter to the compiler (3 April 1972) Witkin accepted as a correct interpretation of the work that T01394 moved beyond the concern for the exploration of the duality of concavity and convexity which characterised the Angola series (‘Angola I’ is T01025). The form of T01394 establishes a complex of monumental spaces: unlike earlier works ‘Shogun’ is monumental because of what it achieves rather than because of how it appears. He said: ‘Part of what gives “Shogun” its “monumental expansiveness” is its use of architectural perspectives radiating outward while at the same time creating spacial depth. It is so entitled because it suggested to me an awesome Oriental presence. Shogun means Japanese military leader. (The Trapezoid shapes somewhat resemble a Samurai’s helmet).
‘Shogun is my most radical work of this period, and I am still engaged in trying to extend what I opened up there.’
The artist wrote (Bennington Catalogue, 1971): ‘With Shogun complete, I reached an impasse in my work. I saw no way of extending what I had done. My work was caught somewhere between openness and mass, and it seemed that I had to make a committed move in either direction. I committed myself to volume.’
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.