Abstract brass sculpture evoking influence of Brancusi

Against Time: The Noguchi Museum 40th Anniversary Reinstallation

August 28, 2024 – September 14, 2025

Coinciding with The Noguchi Museum’s 40th anniversary in 2025, works from the Museum’s original second floor installation will return to those galleries for the first time since 2009. Against Time is curated by Matthew Kirsch, Noguchi Museum Curator and Director of Research.

Against Time uses as its basis the catalogue The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987), written by Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) as a guide to works in the Museum in place of traditional wall labels, which was in turn used to define the Museum’s permanent collection after his death in December 1988. This original installation consisted of sculptures that had accumulated before and after Noguchi’s move to his 10th Street studio in Long Island City in 1961. Noguchi considered a number of these to be personal breakthroughs, works that represented significant turns and returns within his cyclical practice over the course of six decades.

Against Time could never replicate Noguchi’s exact vision for these galleries, as they have since been repartitioned after renovations in the early 2000s. Rather, this installation is a distillation of various phases from 1985–88, adapted and reimagined according to archival photographs documenting how Noguchi assiduously arranged and rearranged his works in different constellations in the first years of the Museum.

The reinstallation will encompass more than 60 works, including examples of Noguchi’s first forays into abstraction with brass and wood sculptures dating from 1928, just after his short stint as an assistant in Constantin Brancusi’s studio in Paris, alongside three portrait busts that Noguchi made in the 1930s, a practice that Noguchi returned to intermittently out of financial necessity. A selection from Noguchi’s 1940s MacDougal Alley studio era will include interlocking sculptures in slate and marble (along with later bronze reproductions), experiments with lit elements concealed within molded magnesite which Noguchi called Lunars, and carved onyx and alabaster works. An array of Noguchi’s project models, rarely shown as a group, will include unrealized designs for monuments and memorials, and formative playground concepts with later models of realized indoor and outdoor environments. These will be paired with set elements from three of Noguchi’s enduring and transformative collaborations with the choreographer Martha Graham, illustrating how these exercises in the partitioning and punctuation of space expanded outward.

The sheer variety of materials and modes of sculpture and Noguchi’s fluid definition of its scope lend some truth to Noguchi’s half-joking estimation: “I’m older than most artists, and I’ve probably gone through, at some point, the stages that all artists eventually go through. So in a sense, I am the history of art today, in my own person.”

Exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.