Past Exhibitions

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View photographs and learn more about past exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum and other institutions around the world.

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04.01.03
Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern
Friday, November 11, 2016 - Sunday, March 19, 2017

Isamu Noguchi was among the most innovative American sculptors of the twentieth century, creating works that were far ahead of his time. Yet Noguchi frequently found inspiration in ancient art and architecture, from Egyptian pyramids, to Buddhist temples and Zen gardens, to American Indian burial mounds. The exhibition Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern is the first full-scale exhibition to explore how the ancient world shaped Noguchi’s vision for the future.

More than seventy works on loan from The Noguchi Museum include monolithic basalt sculptures, fountains, and Akari Light Sculptures, as well as works that use stone, water, and light to evoke nature while calling to mind elemental structures that cross civilizations and time. Noguchi viewed himself not only as an artist but also an engineer, and the exhibition devotes special attention to Noguchi’s patented designs, including Radio Nurse—the first baby monitor. Also on view are designs for stage sets, playgrounds, and utilitarian articles, many of which are still produced today.

Isamu Noguchi: Archaic/Modern, which is accompanied by a catalogue, is co-curated by Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart and Karen Lemmey, sculpture curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The idea for the exhibition grew out of Highlights from the Collection: Noguchi Archaic/Noguchi Modern, on view at The Noguchi Museum in 2014.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F Streets, N.W., Washington, DC. americanart.si.edu

Image: Isamu Noguchi, Red Lunar Fist, 1944. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum / Artists Right Society (ARS).

Impasse Ronsin
Friday, October 28, 2016 - Saturday, January 14, 2017

At Paul Kasmin Gallery at New York City, The Noguchi Museum creates a special installation in the rear gallery of an exhibition devoted to the Parisian alley called l’impasse Ronsin, where numerous twentieth-century artists had their studios. The installation evokes the “Brancusi-like” studio that Noguchi established in Gentilly, just south of Paris, in 1927, after working as the Romanian sculptor’s studio assistant. The only artist to have come out of Brancusi’s studio, Noguchi had unique insights into what Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart calls “that Modernist Eden of ambiguity—where traditional craft met the avant-garde, object became indistinguishable from base, and art was life.”

Paul Kasmin Gallery, 515 W. 27th Street, New York, NY. paulkasmingallery.com

Image: Isamu Noguchi in his studio in Gentilly, France, 1927. Photo: Atelier Stone / ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

Highlights from the Collection: Design Into Art
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - Sunday, January 8, 2017

Long before it was widely accepted to do so, Noguchi ignored the traditional distinction between “art” and “design.” This exhibition focuses on the permeable membrane between these categories in Noguchi's work, with lightweight and flat-packable furniture, stage sets, sculpture, and Akari Light Sculptures.

Image: Installation view, Design Into Art, showing balsa wood sculptures and stage sets for Martha Graham. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

Tina Barney and Stephen Shore: A Portrait of The Noguchi Museum
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - Sunday, January 8, 2017

On view in the upper level galleries are six original photographs by eminent photographers Tina Barney and Stephen Shore, from the publication The Noguchi Museum | A Portrait (Phaidon, 2015); created in honor of the Museum's 30th anniversary.

Read more about the publication here. It is also available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Image: Stephen Shore, Area 2, Noguchi Museum, Queens, New York, November 8, 2013, 2013 (printed 2015). Chromogenic color print. © Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.

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Another Land: After Noguchi | A Project by Leah Raintree
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - Sunday, January 8, 2017

Another Land: After Noguchi, an exhibition of photographs by Leah Raintree, extends the more than century-old tradition of astrophotography to consider the microcosms inherent in the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi.

In the summer of 2015, Raintree embarked on a project at neighboring Socrates Sculpture Park that joined two sources of inspiration: her studies of Noguchi’s mark-making on stone and a recent mission by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe, which streamed images of Comet 67P back to Earth while landing a smaller craft on its surface. With the enigmatic photographs taken by Rosetta during its approach to 67P in mind, she reimagined a small granite stone that she sculpted and then photographed as a distant asteroid. Shortly thereafter Raintree began a similar photographic investigation of The Noguchi Museum collection.

Raintree’s work frames the relationship between human activity and its environmental impacts through process, as functions of material and scale. She engages mark-making through drawing, performative interactions with matter, and documentation of found marks within phenomena. Her interest lies in expanded time frames, often embedding distinctly human marks within ambient accumulations that mimic geology. She found a kindred spirit, and an abundance of information, in Noguchi, whose postwar stone sculptures seize on qualities inherent to quarried rock, amplifying fractures and breakages to reveal the geological passage of time—and, correspondingly, set up an extended metaphor for the limited nature of human existence.

Raintree initially focused on Noguchi’s landscape table sculptures. These planes of stone preserve the neatness of the quarry’s processing cuts and effectively become “shaved” material samples extracted from Earth’s geological deposits. Noguchi punctuated them with elevated mounds and plateaus, juxtaposing stippled areas with various degrees of polish, suggesting a muting and a loss of surface detail seen from a great distance. From this starting point, Raintree’s sessions photographing in the galleries expanded to encompass works in stone in all its variations, and further still to Noguchi's hand-formed ceramics, project models, sets, and Akari light sculptures.

Noguchi occasionally engaged professional photographers to visualize the physical space of his early model proposals for landscapes, garden spaces, and the occasional monument, and their completed counterparts. Photography’s necessarily creative fictionalization of sculpture was a tool he used to process his widescreen vision for these projects, and it likewise made its way back into his studio practice. One notable instance, the sole surviving photo artifact of a conceptual model for a proto-earthwork called Sculpture to Be Seen From Mars (1947), a monumental epitaph to Earth’s inhabitants in the form of an abstracted human visage, seems to have planted the seed for Noguchi’s later work with the landscape tables.

With documentary photography already a constant in terms of the presentation and conceptual framing of Noguchi’s work, Raintree’s photographs propose yet another vantage for looking at his sculptures—one that engages the surfaces and material character of his work to recast them in a fictive light as celestial objects. Within his lifetime, Noguchi witnessed the dramatic evolution of astrophotography. Through attentive lighting and framing and an allusive nod towards science fiction (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey), Raintree recasts Noguchi’s surfaces as forbidding, barren, depleted, or otherwise uncharted landscapes—a fitting association given Noguchi’s interest in the ecology of our planet and the exploration of others. Raintree’s photographs also support more dystopian interpretations, such as the slate-cleaning return to nothing that may follow a man-made apocalypse. But most importantly, in distilling Noguchi’s hand through visual dislocation and shifts in scale, they turn the sculptures into self-evident formations, thus extending the reach of each stone into the galactic timescale.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication with an introduction by Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon and texts by Senior Curator Dakin Hart and Jay Bernstein, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, as well as an interview with the artist by Noguchi Museum Associate Curator Matt Kirsch.

Press Release (PDF)

Exhibition Walking Guide (PDF)

Another Land: After Noguchi represents The Noguchi Museum’s ongoing engagement with contemporary artists, writers, designers, musicians, and others as a means of illuminating the scope of Noguchi’s vision and his continuing impact on our culture.

Production assistance for Another Land: After Noguchi was provided, in part, by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.
Noguchi's Playscapes (Los Parques de Noguchi)
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - Sunday, October 9, 2016

Presented by Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, Noguchi’s Playscapes is the most comprehensive exhibition to date focusing on Isamu Noguchi's vision of playgrounds and the public space. It includes models, sketches, architectural drawings and photographs, along with full-scale reconstructions of play sculptures and playscapes.

The show revisits some of Isamu Noguchi’s key ideas on how to discuss play, recreation, and education; and thus provokes a reconsideration of these categories within the sense of community that exists in our times. Embracing the possibility of closing the gap between art and functionality, Noguchi fiercely defended the idea that sculpture is an aesthetic and cultural tool capable of smoothing our passage between individuality and society. He took a favorable view of the democratization of art and the public space, inspiring him to create a number of playgrounds and play structures designed to stimulate creative activity as a way of learning about and participating in the world.

The scale models, sketches, set designs, and archival images included in this show—the first of its kind in Mexico—attest to the artist’s fifty-year-long investigation of spaces for play. The Museo Tamayo has created full-scale working reproductions of Noguchi's play sculptures, which were last made in Japan four decades ago. Located both inside and outside the building, these will be accessible to visitors of the museum and of Chapultepec Park. To read more, visit museotamayo.org.  #LosParquesdeNoguchi

Image: Isamu Noguchi, Maquette for US Pavilion Expo, 1970. Painted plaster. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY.