Noguchi: Body-Space Devices

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - Sunday, 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 Noguchi 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. As a whole, the works on view in the exhibition reflect Noguchi’s lifelong interest in turning sculpture into a civic practice, from motivating the movement of an individual body in relationship to an object, to the flow of a company of dancers seeking collective meaning from a set, and, finally, social progress. Body–Space Devices is a selective survey of the strategies that he used to implicate the body in his work, from literal use (sets, furniture, play equipment) to works that imply a constructor (his puzzle-like interlocking sculptures), and empathy-inspiring biomorphic abstractions.

In September, 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 several times over the course of the exhibition using Noguchi’s sculptures and Fernandes’s chairs as devices.

Exhibition Brochure

Image: Isamu Noguchi in a Lobi chair in his Long Island City studio, c. 1960s. The Noguchi Museum Archive. ©INFGM / ARS