Sam Noto works with an attitude of persistent curiosity. His way of working allows his materials to generate form, and explores conceptual ideas about that form dynamically occupying space. Questions of balance are central to many of them. Noto's spirit of invention links him to predecessors like David Smith, but with his own unique sense of improvisation. In much the same way that modernist abstraction was related to jazz in its early days, Noto works through a variety of solutions to problems of form and meaning within a creative framework. That framework has, over the years, progressed in a clear trajectory of style and materials. Yet, the improvisational remains at the heart of what he does, allowing, as he says, "the materials at hand to speak, to suggest the form, and to direct the development of the concept." His most recent work takes on a bold and physically challenging scale, creating pieces of welded steel that are often literally dangerous as well as formally intriguing.

In terms of content, Noto's recent work included in the American University Museum exhibit conveys a range of contemporary anxieties, both serious and profound, with just a touch of dark humor, and even a suggestion of hope. The "Anxiety" series emerged from an unexpected find of a large source of scrap materials that offered extensive choices in terms of shape and texture. Looking and handling these, the artist began to feel that the constructions he was making seemed to suggest anxieties in abstract form. Some connote nightmares (Bed, What is in Your Closet?) while others suggest betrayal (Whose Side Are You On?) and/or frustration (But I'm From New York!, Blue Bird Can't Sing). Whose Side Are You On is all about balance—a healthy respect of its weight is required here—about being edgy but somehow centered. In a few of these works Noto has added color as an active element; some are just rusted steel. The "Anxiety" series closes with Lotus whose curves nevertheless seem somewhat harsh with their textured and rusted surfaces. They seem to suggest that inner balance only comes with work, and perhaps through it.

Claudia Rousseau

A new monograph on the artist, Sam Noto, Sculptor: A Persistent Curiosity (Xlibris, 2014) by Claudia Rousseau will be available at the American University Museum Bookstore during the course of the exhibit, September 6, 2014- March 15, 2015.