- Isamu Noguchi
- Akari & Shop
This summer’s installation of highlights from the collection is organized around four instances in which Noguchi returned to an earlier body of work to rethink, redevelop, reproduce or restore it. The first example includes two groups of objects Noguchi made inspired by Constantin Brancusi in the 1930s, following his apprenticeship in Brancusi’s studio, when he was still very much under the Romanian’s influence and two decades later, in homage to his mentor, following Brancusi’s death in 1957.
The second concerns Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures of the 1940s, the majority of which were made in stone. “Remembrance,” the original presented here, is a rare example in wood. In the 1970s and 1980s, spurred by demand for these by then widely recognized masterpieces, and concerned about their long-term survival (given their fragility), Noguchi remade a number of them in bronze and aluminum.
Between Brancusi’s Paris studio, where Noguchi first learned to square off a block of stone in 1927, and the marble “laboratories” around Querceta, Italy where, in addition to direct carving, he explored the artistic potential of raw marble blocks fresh from the quarry and the 8’ diameter circular saw used to portion them, the nature of Noguchi’s work with stone changed significantly. The third group of objects on view includes works from the late 1960s and 1980s in marble that feature a graphic use of the chisel, and whether finished or not, will call to mind Michelangelo’s non-finito (unfinished) technique.
The final grouping comes from several of Noguchi’s set designs for Martha Graham. Generally, the Museum shies away from isolating individual set elements from the productions for which they were developed. The point of including them here is to emphasize what it means to make sculpture for use (one of Noguchi’s favorite subjects), and not just any use but the incredible abuse delivered by dancers in performance. As a result of the constant need to repair and replace them, most of these set elements exist in several different forms: originals, performance copies, and exhibitions copies-made by the artist and his fabricators, as well as Martha Graham Dance Company.