Isamu Noguchi

Overview

This invaluable new monograph offers a provocative chronicle of the man and an enlightening analysis of his art.

A man of inexhaustible energy and invention, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi was always in motion. His career extended for more than sixty years, during which he often worked simultaneously on many diverse endeavors.

Born in the United States of mixed parentage, Noguchi had a Japanese childhood and an American adolescence. His notion of ...

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Overview

This invaluable new monograph offers a provocative chronicle of the man and an enlightening analysis of his art.

A man of inexhaustible energy and invention, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi was always in motion. His career extended for more than sixty years, during which he often worked simultaneously on many diverse endeavors.

Born in the United States of mixed parentage, Noguchi had a Japanese childhood and an American adolescence. His notion of modern art was forged in the Paris studio of Constantin Brancusi and modified through the utopianism of R. Buckminster Fuller. Combined with his experience of the traditional Japanese house and garden and with his work on the avant-garde stage of Martha Graham, these influences led him toward a broadened conception of sculpture as the creation of social space. In pursuit of this ideal, Noguchi created plazas and gardens, furniture and interiors, ignoring the boundary between art and design. But he also continued the carving of stone and wood that brought him critical attention in New York during the 1940s, and the stonework he did during his last decades, in his studio complex on the Japanese island of Shikoku, allowed him to integrate his metaphysical concerns with modernist sculptural practice.

Ranging across this century and filled with engaging persons and places, Noguchi's story is a compelling one, told with refreshing verve and insight. Little-known documentary photographs from the artist's own archives and striking full-color images from every aspect of his multifaceted career complement the perceptive and gracefully written text.

About the Modern Masters series:

With infomative, enjoyable texts and over 100illustrations—approximately 48 in full color—this innovative series offers a fresh look at the most creative and influential artists of the postwar era. The authors are highly respected art historians and critics chosen for their ability to think clearly and write well. Each handsomely designed volume presents a thorough survey of the artist's life and work, as well as statements by the artist, an illustrated chapter on technique, a chronology, lists of exhibitions and public collections, an annotated bibliography, and an index. Every art lover, from the casual museumgoer to the serious student, teacher, critic, or curator, will be eager to collect these Modern Masters. And with such a low price, they can afford to collect them all.

Other Details: 115 or more illustrations, approximately 48 in full color 128 pages 8 1/2 x 8 1/2" Published 1994

taken control of his career in order to accomplish his work, so Noguchi founded sites of personal myth to govern how he would be seen by the public, and how he would appear to himself. In such dichotomy Noguchi regularly found strength—in tensions between Asia and the West, ancient and modern, the practical and the utopian, social engagement and personal isolation. In the end, he could think of no fewer than two places as home.

Those who knew Noguchi rarely fail to mention that he was always in motion, a man of incredible energy and ambition. His working life extended for more than sixty years, and much of that time he was engaged simultaneously in many fields. Ranging across some of the dominant cultural movements of the century and intersecting crucial persons and places, his is an amazing story, apparently larger than life. But it begins at the outset of the century with a small boy in Japan, who soon would have to make his way alone.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ninety-year-old Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi is one of the most important sculptors of this century. Blending Asian and Western styles in his art, Noguchi has produced an incredible range of works-from large public pieces to coffee tables and set designs. This well-written volume has been carefully compiled by the director of the Noguchi Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York. The sharp illustrations include a wide variety of the artist's output while the text, which follows Noguchi's career, elucidates the development of his oeuvre. Altshuler coauthor of Isamu Noguchi: Essays and Conversations, Abrams, 1994 provides a very useful chronology, a list of public collections in which the artist's work appears, and an informative bibliography. An essential purchase for every public and art library.-Martin Chasin, Adult Inst., Bridgeport, Ct.
Booknews
Noguchi 1904-88 was born in the US, and had a Japanese childhood, an American adolescence, and Parisian art training. Altshuler, director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in New York, surveys the artist's sculptures in stone and wood, stage sets for dances and plays, lamp and furniture designs, and sculptural environments in cities around the world. Profusely and colorfully illustrated. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558597556
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: Modern Masters Series Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 8.53 (w) x 10.98 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Born in the United States of mixed parentage, Isamu Noguchi had a Japanese childhood and an American adolescence. His notion of modern art was forged in the Paris studio of Constantin Brancusi and modified through the technological utopianism of R. Buckminster Fuller. Combined with his experience of the traditional Japanese house and garden and with his work on the avant garde stage of Martha Graham, these influences led him toward a broadened conception of sculpture as the creation of social space. In pursuit of this modernist project, Noguchi would create plazas and gardens, furniture and interiors, ignoring the boundary between art and design. But he also continued the carving of stone and wood that brought him critical attention in New York during the 1940s. In his last decades this carving was deeply influenced by his work in Japan, and a new aesthetic emerged from his years of conversation with stone, in what he called "the sculpture of spaces." Understood in this way, Noguchi was a modernist of the New York School, an artist who synthesized East and West in service to an innovative vision of what sculpture could be. And this view, as far as it goes, is an accurate one.

But in the details of Noguchi's life and career are many other issues of special interest in the late twentieth century. His mixed ethnicity and his family circumstances prompted a frustrating search for cultural identity within a world of rigid cultural assumptions. His work outside traditional means of making sculpture questioned the model of the creator alone in the studio and made collaboration as central to his sculptural production as it was to his landscape and design projects. Needing togarner and execute these projects, and distrustful of art dealers, he operated as a free agent in the art world, devising a means of survival within a system that did not readily accept such independence. To maintain this nonstandard career Noguchi had to orchestrate activity of enormous scope over long periods of time, which required a staff and, in effect, made a business of his artistic enterprise. Focused on garden and architectural projects, and also wanting to make useful sculptural objects for manufacture, Noguchi was set apart by his unconcealed relationship to commerce and capital. From this perspective his modernist project takes on a postmodern cast, and this apparent insider looks like an artistic outsider.

Noguchi was well aware of his peripheral status, both culturally and artistically. He was viewed as a Japanese artist in the United States, and until quite recently, in Japan he was regarded as too American. Because of his many design projects and his involvement with the patrons needed to support them, he was derided by some of his New York School peers and dismissed as less serious than those who remained cloistered in the studio. In a system oriented toward specialization and the single focus, the diversity of his activities worked against him with every constituency. So, despite many moments of notice, the public remained largely unaware of the full range of his achievement. Noguchi's peripatetic nature—his inability to rest secure in any place or situation, or in any kind of work or mode of working—made him, and kept him, a marginal figure. This was especially painful for someone as estranged from cultural and familial roots as Isamu Noguchi.

Noguchi said that he could feel at home everywhere because he was at home nowhere, and this issue became a central theme of his life and work. His sense of homelessness and his longing to redress it became a source both for his creation of places for social connection and interaction and for some of his most poignant carving. And it led this New York artist to seek meaning abroad. The confluence of Noguchi's sculptural project and his search for identity through place can be seen in the two special situations that he created for himself toward the end of his life: a museum of his work in New York and a studio complex in Japan. As he had taken control of his career in order to accomplish his work, so Noguchi founded sites of personal myth to govern how he would be seen by the public, and how he would appear to himself. In such dichotomy Noguchi regularly found strength—in tensions between Asia and the West, ancient and modern, the practical and the utopian, social engagement and personal isolation. In the end, he could think of no fewer than two places as home.

Those who knew Noguchi rarely fail to mention that he was always in motion, a man of incredible energy and ambition. His working life extended for more than sixty years, and much of that time he was engaged simultaneously in many fields. Ranging across some of the dominant cultural movements of the century and intersecting crucial persons and places, his is an amazing story, apparently larger than life. But it begins at the outset of the century with a small boy in Japan, who soon would have to make his way alone.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
1 Toward Modernism 11
2 Sculpture and Society 25
3 Search for Identity 49
4 The Sculpture of Spaces 65
5 Deepening Knowledge 83
Notes 102
Artist's Statements 105
Notes on Technique 109
Chronology 113
Exhibitions 117
Public Collections 121
Selected Bibliography 123
Index 126
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