Saburo Hasegawa and Isamu Noguchi at Shisen-do Temple, Kyoto, 1950. Photograph by Michio Noguchi....

Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan

May 1, 2019 – July 14, 2019

Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan is a major traveling exhibition focused on the consequential friendship between Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) and Saburo Hasegawa (1906–1957). In his lifetime, Hasegawa was among the most renowned contemporary Japanese artists in the United States, and credited with introducing European abstraction to Japan in his role as an art historian, critic, and art theorist.

Their relationship was kindled during Noguchi’s visit to Japan in 1950, as both artists sought to understand the fragmented postwar world and the potential of art in reassembling it. Together, they undertook a wide-ranging study of traditional Japanese design, culture, and aesthetics; visiting historic sites, and debating modernization with the ultimate goal of making modern art in Japan through the “true development” of its traditions. Comprising more than 80 contemporary and subsequent works by Noguchi and Hasegawa, the exhibition traces influences of their dialogue.

Organized by The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York, Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan is curated by Dakin Hart, Senior Curator at The Noguchi Museum, and Mark Dean Johnson, Professor and Gallery Director at San Francisco State University. Previously at Yokohama Museum of Art, the exhibition was on view at The Noguchi Museum from May 1 to July 14, 2019; and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco from September 27 to December 8, 2019.

Publications

Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan is accompanied by a richly illustrated, bilingual catalogue published by University of California Press. With essays by curators Dakin Hart and Mark Dean Johnson, as well as other leading scholars, the publication also includes essays by Hasegawa and Noguchi—Hasegawa’s “Noguchi in Japan” (1950) and Noguchi’s “Remembrance of Saburo Hasegawa” (1976).

In addition, an open access companion The Saburo Hasegawa Reader collects a valuable trove of material including the entire manuscript for a 1957 Hasegawa memorial volume, with its essays by philosopher Alan Watts, Oakland Museum Director Paul Mills, and Japan Times art writer Elise Grilli, as well as various unpublished writings by Hasegawa. Available as a free ebook and paperback from UC Press.

  • Nodate tea ceremony in Nara with a group including Saburo Hasegawa (second from right) and Isamu Noguchi (far right), 1950. The Noguchi Museum Archive. ©INFGM / ARS
Public Program: Changing and Unchanging Sound

On June 13, 2019, The Noguchi Museum presents Changing and Unchanging Sound, a musical performance featuring the premiere of a work by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, works by Kaija Saariaho, Juri Seo, and improvisations based on paintings by Saburo Hasegawa. Violist Lanzilotti is joined by Johanna Lundy on french horn, and the Argus Quartet.

Changing and Unchanging Sound reframes and interacts with works by Isamu Noguchi and Saburo Hasegawa. Saariaho’s Sept Papillons (Seven Butterflies) for solo cello uses the physicality of the musician’s hand movements to evoke the image of a butterfly settling on the fingerboard, as Hasegawa’s The Butterfly Dream—from Chuang Tzu (1956) imagines characters as butterflies. The musicians will also perform improvisations based on Hasegawa’s works that are featured in the exhibition. The theme of postwar reflection and memory are present in Saariaho’s Aure—the opening melody uses the phrase “Why us, why the star?” from Anne Frank’s diary. Seo’s Winter-Spring, from her quartet Infinite Season, suggests death and rebirth using old styles reimagined in contemporary contexts. Finally, Lanzilotti’s new work beyond the accident of time honors Noguchi’s never fully-realized Bell Tower for Hiroshima (1950; partially reconstructed 1986) and imagines the sound this memorial might have created.

As a whole, Changing and Unchanging Sound considers being open or closed, amplifying the sentiment of Noguchi and Hasegawa’s conversations about cultural exchanges. In working through sonic and visual forms of how things break up and how they’re put back together, Changing and Unchanging Sound explores questions about what it is to be human, living in uncertainty and growing after destruction.

beyond the accident of time
beyond the accident of time, by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

 

Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan is made possible through lead support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Generous transportation assistance has been provided by ANA (All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.). Major support has also been received from the National Endowment for the Arts, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and The Japan Foundation. The exhibition is also supported, in part, with 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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.