Isamu Noguchi’s Sesshu (1958) exemplifies the Japanese American artist’s commitment to synthesizing disparate cultures through his work. Noguchi attributed his long-standing interest in making three-dimensional sculpture from two-dimensional materials to his childhood training in origami and kirigami—the Japanese arts of cutting and folding paper. Off view since 1968, the recently conserved Sesshu was created from a single sheet of Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) manufactured aluminum, which was not considered a fine art material in the 1950s. The artist used industrial equipment to cut and bend the flat sheet into a screenlike form.
The installation also includes loans from The Noguchi Museum of several paper maquettes for sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, as well as a 1907 collotype reproduction of Sesshu’s Long Landscape Scroll which was among Noguchi’s personal belongings.
On one of Noguchi’s first visits with the artist Saburo Hasegawa in Japan in May 1950, Hasegawa unrolled a high-quality reproduction of Sesshu’s famous Long Landscape Scroll, a catalogue of landscape concepts, which they pored over late into the night. Hasegawa wrote his thesis on the paintings of the 15th century Japanese itinerant master and Zen priest. Whether this reproduction is the one he gave Noguchi in 1950 or one Noguchi bought later, its existence among Noguchi’s personal possessions is a testament to the impact of their fateful meeting.