When Noguchi made this work he was living in Japan, where, he would recall, “Our house was filled with [centipedes]. I became rather fond of them. . . . When you kill a centipede, the two halves just walk off. This gave me the idea for a sculpture in sections.” The work’s clay elements invoke Japan’s long tradition of ceramics. In memorializing and monumentalizing the centipede, Noguchi was addressing the Buddhist notion of respect for all living things. “The work is a shrine to the centipede,” he said, “or rather the centipede is now enshrined at The Museum of Modern Art.”
Gallery label from 2019
The shapes in Isamu Noguchi’s sculptures were inspired by his deep connection with nature and his respect for all living things—including the centipedes he found crawling around his house. Even the Centipede is made of eleven red ceramic shapes attached to a wooden pole. How do you think this creature would move if it suddenly came alive?
Kids label from 2019