Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics: A Close Embrace of the Earth / Edition 1

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Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) is renowned for his stone and bronze sculpture, his gardenlike installations in public spaces, and his furniture designs. Far less familiar, but no less important, is Noguchi's work in clay, which he executed in three intensive sessions in 1931, 1950, and 1952, all during visits to Japan. The pieces included in this elegant volume and the accompanying exhibition comprise the first major museum presentation of Isamu Noguchi's ceramics and the introduction of the work of major postwar Japanese ceramic artists with whom Noguchi collaborated or interacted. Supported by four linked essays and opulently illustrated in full color and black and white, Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics highlights the sculptor's struggles with cultural identity and his experimentation with the conflicts between modernity and tradition.

Noguchi's sculptures in the medium of clay reveal informal, spontaneous, and humorous aspects not visible in less flexible media such as bronze or stone. Through clay, Noguchi probed unresolved personal issues surrounding his ambiguous cultural identity as the son of a Japanese father and American mother. Because Noguchi made his ceramics in Japan, his work also creates links to a diversity of approaches within the ceramic world of Japan. These range from traditionalists such as Kitaoji Rosanjin and the Living National Treasure designates, to primitivists exemplified by Okamoto Taro and Tsuji Shindo, to avant-garde experimentalists led by the Sodeisha group. An understanding of the nature and scope of the concerns Noguchi expressed through clay is crucial to understanding his work as a whole, and consideration of Japanese ceramic artists in the 1950s reveals a largely unknown genre of modern Japanese art.

Copublished with the Smithsonian

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
It is a rare pleasure to find a thoughtful, readable book that opens a new perspective on a major artist by revealing a hitherto little-known facet of his career. This beautifully illustrated catalog to an exhibition at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery covers Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi's (1904-88) struggle to resolve his bicultural background by working in clay during his periods of residence in Japan in the 1930s and 1950s. Noguchi felt that clay was a telluric connection to the Japanese side of his identity and an immediate entr e into the artistic spirit of a country where ceramics have been valued for millennia. Working with groundbreaking potters such as Kitaoji Rosanjin and Kaneshige Toyo, Noguchi delved into both Japanese tradition and contemporary Western surrealism to create an exciting body of ceramic sculpture. Two major essays, by cocurators Cort and Winther-Tamaki, trace Noguchi's early life and work in Japan, while shorter essays by Niimi Ryu and Bruce Altshuler examine the artworks' relation to the art scene in Japan and America, respectively. The exhibition and catalog cover not only Noguchi but also several Japanese potters he influenced. Essential for ceramic and sculpture collections, this would also be useful in academic and larger public libraries.-David McClelland, Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520239234
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/4/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,367,179
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Allison Cort is Curator of Ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian
Institution. She has published widely on the subject of ceramics. Bert Winther-Tamaki is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years (2001).

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Table of Contents

The Ceramic Art of Isamu Noguchi: A Close Embrace of the Earth 1
The Modern Primitive: Discourses of the Visual Arts in Japan in the 1950s 87
Japanese Encounters with Clay 103
"Once an Oriental Always an Oriental": The American Display and Reception of Noguchi's Ceramics 193
Catalogue for Noguchi's 1950 Exhibition at Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo 204
Catalogue for Noguchi's 1952 Exhibition at Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura 208
Selected Bibliography 210
Chronology 212
Contributors 215
Index 216
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