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.Read More
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.