Learn how to take a closer look at a sculpture by applying the principles of design to the Kouros by Isamu Noguchi.
Balance: Technically, Kouros is perfectly balanced. All the pieces fit together in an interlocking manner without any glue or nails. Visually, the piece is asymmetrically balanced. While each side is different, the weight distribution appears to be about the same. The group of small forms on the left side of the sculpture balances out the strong vertical form on the right side.
Emphasis: When we look at Kouros from this viewpoint, the large vertical form on the right side of the sculpture is what we see first. It has the most emphasis. But don’t forget that the sculpture is three-dimensional. Maybe if we walked around it and looked at it from another side the emphasis would change.
Movement: When we look at Kouros our eyes tend to start at the bottom, or foot, of the sculpture, which is the darkest, heaviest part. Our gaze travels up, to the lighter head at the top. The upward movement in the piece has a lot of energy, almost like a fountain of water gushing toward the sky.
Pattern: Noguchi creates patterns in Kouros by repeating several shapes. The oval at the top repeats further down the spine of the sculpture. Slightly skewed rectangles occur over and over, in both negative and positive space. The upright shape of the longest piece on the left mimics the big slab on the right.
Contrast: There are several contrasting elements in Kouros. The large vertical marble piece on the right side is in contrast to the smaller pieces on the left. The horizontal forms contrast with the vertical ones, and the dark veins create contrast with the pink tones of the marble. These differences add a lot of interest to the sculpture.
Proportion: Kouros is a very big sculpture. It is more than nine feet high, much taller than any person. Although it is hard to imagine when we look at a picture of it, it towers over the viewer. Its huge proportions add to its power as an artwork.
Unity: Kouros is unified in structure and substance. The carefully balanced pieces of marble join to create a graceful, abstract figure. The consistent use of organic forms and beautiful pink marble combine to make this sculpture a strikingly unified masterpiece.