Isamu Noguchi in a Lobi chair in his Long Island City studio, c. 1960s. The Noguchi Museum Archive.

Noguchi: Body-Space Devices

May 15, 2019 – May 3, 2020

The first of a two-part exhibition with artist Brendan Fernandes (b. 1979), a dancer, choreographer, and sculptor, Noguchi: Body-Space Devices is an installation of works from the Museum’s collection.

At the heart of Noguchi’s conception of sculpture is the production of a powerful set of invisible forces between object, viewer, and space. The works in the exhibition reflect Noguchi’s lifelong interest in turning sculpture into a civic practice, from motivating movement of an individual body in relation to an object, to the flow of a company of dancers seeking collective meaning within a set, and, finally, to social progress. Body–Space Devices is a selective survey of the strategies Noguchi used to implicate the body in his work across a wide range of disciplines, encompassing literal use (sets, furniture, play equipment) to works that imply a constructor (puzzle-like interlocking sculptures), and empathy-inspiring biomorphic abstractions. The installation also includes a selection of inspirational objects personally collected by Noguchi.

Through March 8, 2020, Body-Space Devices will be reconfigured as the site of Brendan Fernandes: Contract and Release. Fernandes will add custom-designed scaffolding, created in collaboration with Norman Kelley Architecture, to the existing installation as a means of reframing it, along with six versions of a “training device” for dancers that he modeled on the blade-like (non-rocking) rocking chair that Noguchi created for Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring (1944). The dancers’ labor will consist of keeping Fernandes’s rocking chairs still while seated in second position. Contract and Release, which takes its title from a foundation of Graham technique, is the second iteration in a developing series of autobiographical examinations exploring the different movement vocabularies that have made Fernandes the artist and mover that he is. (The first, The Master and Form, commissioned by the Graham Foundation in Chicago, examined the relationship between the mastery of form and pain and pleasure in ballet technique through the use of a series of sculptural devices for altering the body to achieve ideal technical positions.) Contract and Release will be activated with performances by dancers most Saturdays over the course of the exhibition using Noguchi’s sculptures and Fernandes’s chairs as devices.

Noguchi: Body-Space Devices is 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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.