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American, born South Africa, 1936–2006
Hawthorne Tree, Variation III, 1990
Bronze, 93 x 83 x 83 in.
On loan courtesy of Nadine Witkin
[on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center installation at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal D]
Hawthorne Tree, Variation III represents a particularly innovative and mature phase of Witkin’s career. Here, he elaborated on his pioneering technique of constructing sculptures from freely poured bronze forms. The organic shapes that make up the sculpture are the result of experimentation and construction with modeled and cast bronze forms. The biomorphic shapes look like whimsical tree limbs or bones and recall the surrealist sculptures of Isamu Noguchi and Jean Arp. The artist noted that the Hawthorne Tree series refers to a German interpretation of the Arthurian legend of the wizard Merlin, in which Merlin passes on his knowledge of magic to a nymph under a hawthorne tree. Witkin made six variations, or as he called them, “magical transformations,” of some of the shapes used in this version, creating new formal and spatial relationships in each variation. Witkin later explained, the works “aren’t about Merlin or the nymph. They’re about the magic that took place in the shade of the hawthorne tree.”