Isamu Noguchi was one the most significant and critically acclaimed artists of the 20th century.Read More
Noguchi was born in 1904 in Los Angeles to American writer Léonie Gilmour and Japanese poet Yonejiro Noguchi. From the age of two to thirteen, Noguchi lived in Japan with his mother, where for a period he trained as a young apprentice to a local carpenter.
In 1918, Noguchi returned to the United States to attend high school. He worked briefly for the sculptor Gutzon Borglum after graduating, and later attended sculpture classes at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York.
After receiving the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927, Noguchi went to Paris and worked in Constantin Brancusi's studio. During this time Noguchi's practice shifted significantly, reflecting the influence of abstraction and modernism.
Isamu Noguchi's multifaceted practice included sculpture, architecture, ceramics, lighting, furniture, and set design. Influenced by both traditional and modern ideas, Noguchi's artwork often promoted the idea that art and design are crucial to the human social condition.
Isamu Noguchi first designed Contoured Playground in 1941 as a small landscape intended for children to play on. Noguchi created a small plaster model of the design, which was documented in a single photograph. Although the work was never realised beyond maquette form in the artist's lifetime, In Search of Contoured Playground (2020) saw Noguchi's design manifested on a massive scale at the Noguchi Museum decades later.
Contoured Playground (1941) highlights the artist's belief in the capacity for sculpture to influence how we experience and interact with space. Noguchi's experimentation with landscape architecture and space became a fundamental part of his practice in years to come.
Inspired by his biomorphic sculptures, Noguchi's practice shifted to furniture design. For Coffee Table (1944), Noguchi designed two interlocking organic wooden elements that support a curved, solid glass tabletop. With its unique aesthetic and experimental combination of sculpture and furniture design, Coffee Table is considered a classic piece of 20th century furniture design.
In 1951, Noguchi visited Gifu, the Japanese town known for producing bamboo and mulberry bark paper lanterns and umbrellas. His visit inspired him to design a series of pendant light sculptures made using traditional Gifu methods of production. He titled the works Akari, a term referring to light as illumination, as well as suggesting the idea of weightlessness.
'That these lamps are so common—granted, not every paper lamp is an Akari, those are still fabricated in Gifu—speaks to Noguchi's motivation that everyone could have art in their homes,' remarks Stephanie Bailey in a 2022 Insight for Ocula Magazine.
Noguchi designed Nine Floating Fountains (1970) for the 1970 World Expo held in Osaka, Japan. In this sculpture, Noguchi creates a gravity-defying illusion by placing large metal cubes on columns obscured by powerful jets of water. The cubes appear to float above a reflective pool designed by architect Kenzō Tange.
Nine Floating Fountains demonstrates Noguchi's ability to blend different elements of architecture, design, and sculpture in his practice.
In 1986, Noguchi was invited to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. It was the first time the U.S. Pavilion dedicated its display to a single artist. One of Noguchi's works, titled Slide Mantra (1986), weighed over 120 tonnes and had to be transported by barge down the Grand Canal due to its size.
Noguchi expressed a wish for his studio to be preserved to continue to inspire artists, designers, and scholars. This was realised with the opening of The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in 1999.
Isamu Noguchi has exhibited globally in important institutional solo and group exhibitions.
His solo exhibitions include Isamu Noguchi: Ways of Discovery, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan (2021); The Sculptor and the Ashtray, Noguchi Museum, New York (2020); Unfolding Noguchi, Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington (2019); Noguchi's Playscapes (Los Parques de Noguchi), Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2016); Isamu Noguchi: Variations, Pace Gallery, New York (2015); Isamu Noguchi, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2008).
Selected group exhibitions include Correspondence: Part Three, White Cube, Aspen (2021); Between the Earth and Sky, Kasmin Gallery, New York (2021); Impasse Ronsin, Museum Tinguely, Basel (2020); Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2018); Dance: American Art, 1830—1960, Detroit Institute of the Arts; Denver Art Museum (2016); America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015).
Noguchi designed and founded The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, which opened to the public in 1985 in New York.
Today known as The Noguchi Museum, the space celebrates the artist's legacy and his lifelong dedication to public spaces.demonstrated the
Isamu Noguchi's estate is represented by White Cube.
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2021