Installation view, Robert Stadler: Solid Doubts

Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum

April 26, 2017 – September 10, 2017

Continuing the Museum’s collaboration with contemporary artists of all disciplines, the category-defying works of Robert Stadler (Austria, b. 1966) are installed in tandem with Noguchi’s sculptures, raising as many aesthetic, functional, and philosophical questions as possible.

With four installations of the two mens’ work in the Museum’s ground-level galleries and sculpture garden, the exhibition explores ways in which both Robert Stadler and Isamu Noguchi probe—and sometimes undermine—concepts such as “art” and “design,” “functional” and “aesthetic,” “material” and “space.”

Solid Doubts is organized by The Noguchi Museum and curated by Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart in collaboration with Robert Stadler.

By Dakin Hart, Senior Curator 

We bring the category-defying work of Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) and Robert Stadler (b. 1966) together in the secluded precincts of The Noguchi Museum—where art and design frequently lose themselves in each other’s eyes—as co-conspirators in the resisting of labels and the confounding of definitions. With its psychological remove from the New York art world, The Noguchi Museum is, for all intents and purposes, another land, an oasis, as Noguchi called it. And thanks to Noguchi’s foresight, its only real responsibility is to ensure that here at least the fertile uncertainties to which he devoted himself live, breathe, and are perpetually renewed. (Noguchi’s 1986 Venice Biennale exhibition for the United States pavilion—like this Museum, an apotheosis of his life’s work as a subversive—was entitled What Is Sculpture? and featured 33 Akari lanterns, a usable, 30-ton, marble slide, a full-scale model for a structural system called Tetrahelix, and two (unconventional) stone sculptures.)

Stadler’s works share with Noguchi’s a fundamental resistance to disambiguation—particularly those works made within the constraints of conventional functional categories (e.g., table, mirror, lamp, bench). Both artists design objects to remain steadfast in their categorical ambivalence, even when and as they toy with the specifics of usefulness. In neither of their universes does use disqualify an object from the responsibilities of self-doubt.

These rendezvous between Stadler and Noguchi, which Stadler has likened to a blind date, are meant to destabilize both artists’ works, for their own benefit—in much the same way that Shakespeare’s lovers are put through their paces in an identity farce. If all goes to plan, every object will emerge with a more flexible, correspondingly stronger sense of self, as well as an enhanced capacity for salutary, open-ended fraternization.

All Robert Stadler works are courtesy of the artist and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Major support for Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum is provided by Van Cleef & Arpels, FACE (French American Cultural Exchange) Foundation; through Oui Design—supported by Institut Français-Paris, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, FACE Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, Van Cleef & Arpels, Air France—and Bundeskanzleramt Österreich-Federal Chancellery of Austria, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. Generous assistance has also been provided by Carpenters Workshop Gallery. The artist’s transportation and accommodations are supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York.