Walter Dusenbery, “Pedogna”

Walter Dusenbery, “Pedogna”

  • <p>Walter Dusenbery, Pedogna, 1977. Photo by Ben Aqua.</p>
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Walter Dusenbery, Pedogna, 2015.

American, born 1939

Born in Alameda, California, Walter Dusenbery has an artistic lineage that follows an impressive line of masters. After studying at San Francisco Art Institute and the California College of Arts and Crafts, Dusenbery assisted Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), who had studied under modernist master Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957), who, in turn, had worked in Auguste Rodin’s (1840–1917) Parisian workshop.

Dusenbery preferred the tradition of direct carving to the popular method of welding metal sculpture that was prevalent during the 1950s and '60s. His larger forms on the scale of Pedogna, however, required considerable geometric calculation and planning; thus, they could not be carved by hand. Many direct-carve sculptors feel a strong physical and psychic link with the natural materials they use, a sensitivity that Dusenbury shared with Noguchi. However, whereas Noguchi worked in fine marbles, variegated granites, and rough basalt, Dusenbery favored travertine, a porous carbonate stone that is easily cut. In its pure state, travertine is white, but mineral or biologic impurities can infuse the stone with various hues, such as the reddish color seen in Pedogna. With a footprint in the shape of a horse's hoof, the sculpture contrasts two kinds of articulated surfaces: a smooth, round, and bell-shaped base with a rusticated side. The juxtaposition between rough chiseling and a sensuous smoothness provides visual interest that emphasizes the intrinsic qualities of the hard, finely grained stone.

The title of this sculpture refers to the secluded Pedogna Valley in Northern Italy that can only be reached by foot. Geologically, Pedogna conveys a history much older than that of ancient Rome: The sculpture celebrates the wonders of the natural environment with striations formed over hundreds of millions of years. Interestingly, the artist chose not to arrange Pedogna’s segments in geological order, a play on the question of time. Dusenbery often carves vertical, totemic abstract sculptures from a single massive stone. These monoliths intentionally convey an ancient aura, evoking sources like the mysterious dolmens of Stonehenge and the lingams of Shiva in India.

  • <p>Walter Dusenbery, Pedogna, 1977. Travertine marble 102-1/2 × 25-1/2 × 21-1/2 inches. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift of Doris and Jack Weintraub, 1979 (1979.300a-h). Photo by Paul Bardagjy.</p>

Location: MAI, Life Science Library Reading Room

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