Past Exhibitions


View photographs and learn more about past exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum and other institutions around the world.

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Isamu Noguchi: Variations at Pace Gallery
Friday, February 20, 2015 - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Drawn from the holdings of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and curated in collaboration with the artist's last and most important dealers, Arne Glimcher and Susan Dunne of Pace Gallery, the exhibition addresses the artist's category-defying range as a world shaper. It will include one of his most significant sets for Martha Graham, Herodiade; an iconic piece of patented play sculpture, Octetra; and sculpture, drawings, functional designs and Akari light sculptures created between 1928, the year he left Brancusi’s studio, and 1988, the year of Noguchi’s death.



Mirror, 1994, bronze

Ding Dong Bat, 1968, white statuary marble, pink Portugese marble

Paris Abstraction, 1928, gouache on paper

Highlights from the Collection: Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - Sunday, January 11, 2015

The only thing Noguchi loved more than the promise of the future was the deep sense of belonging he derived from working with billion year old pieces of rock. Noguchi Archaic/ Noguchi Modern explores a stylistic wormhole that seems to link the ancient past and the distant future in his work.

This exhibition has two sources of inspiration outside Noguchi's work. The first is an association that developed in the middle of the 20th century between the Stone Age and the Atomic Era when—after Hiroshima and Nagasaki—it seemed inevitable that atom smashing would culminate in our bombing ourselves, assuming we survived at all, back into the Stone Age. The association between technology and our possible return to a perfectly primitive state is perhaps best encapsulated in the German artist Joseph Beuys' multiple Ein-Stein-Zeit, a blasted-looking picture of a rough basalt column lying on a floor, the perfect circle cut into one end of it a relic of human knowledge. Ein-Stein-Zeit, which translates literally as "a stone time," is German for Stone Age. It is also a pun on the name of the German physicist popularly credited with devising the theoretical foundation for nuclear fission. “Einstein time” can be defined as a period in which, having invented the tools to destroy ourselves, humanity teeters on a knife edge between atom splitting and a return to rock bashing. 

The second inspiration is the monolith at the center of Stanley Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which closely resembles both an Egyptian stele and an iPhone. Largely staged in clean, simple spaces—either black and limitless (outer space) or white and rectilinear (the interior of a space ship)—2001 helped establish the science fiction motif, since reproduced ad nauseum, that our departure from Earth in the future will be signaled, precipitated, or impacted by a mysterious Euclidian object probably left here by visitors sometime in the distant past. (Cue pyramids and stone circles.) The further you go into the past or the future, the simpler the design of everything becomes—because of course, the further away something is the harder the details that make it distinct are to discern. The funny thing about simplicity is that somewhere along the way it got tangled up with philosophy, took on moral significance, and in certain contexts—Brancusi’s studio, where Noguchi learned to square a block of stone, being a notable example—became a prescriptive design imperative. Simplicity of form is a foundational principle of abstraction and one of the most important techniques of ambiguity, as Noguchi demonstrates here working at both chronological extremes. 


Image: Tsukubai, 1964





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Isamu Noguchi, Patent Holder: Designing the World of Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - Sunday, January 4, 2015

The proverb "necessity is the mother of invention" comes to mind with regard to Isamu Noguchi's involvement in industrial design beginning in the 1930s. Noguchi's efforts as a designer--he even started a business called Time Design offering a dizzying array of services--were motivated by many factors. His friend, "design scientist" R. Buckminster Fuller, brought an irresistible, missionary zeal to engineering and collaboration with American industry. Noguchi himself was prone to the technological utopianism so prevalent in the late twenties, when it seemed that architects and engineers, working with new materials in a fully mechanized society would be able to cure all the world's ills. When every American, including his early mentor, the educator Edward Rumely, who encouraged him to start Time Design and gave him a clock commission, wanted to be a man of business. Noguchi was also suffering from the limited range of opportunities available to artists during the depression--his proposals for public art being largely too complex and ahead of their time to gain traction from the likes of the Works Project Administration. Finally, in the way which has often been identified as distinctly American, he was fanatically, manically, constitutionally determined to be a Success. So, he channeled his energy into rethinking the design of everyday life.

This exhibition surveys the symbiotic relationship in Noguchi's work between sculpture and design in the years leading up to the 1939 World's Fair. Between 1932 and 1939 he designed cases for an interval clock and a baby monitor; proposed Bolt of Lightning, Memorial for Ben Franklin and Monument to the Plow, a 1,200 ft on a side, tilled and crop-rotated pyramid earthwork surmounted by an abstracted stainless steel plow; invented an internally lighted, musical weather vane; collaborated on several left-leaning architectural projects; designed a swimming pool (unbuilt) for a Richard Neutra house for a famous film director in Los Angeles; helped Fuller shape his Dymaxion Car; and finally created a monumental fountain for Ford Motor Company's World's Fair pavilion, celebrating an abstract assemblage of parts from the company's famous drivetrain. Neither at the time, nor since, has any artist or designer better exemplified the spirit of the 1939 World's Fair, "Building the World of Tomorrow," than Noguchi, who would ultimately hold every recognized intellectual property right (including thirteen US patents) and was among the most versatile designers to walk the planet since the likes of Renaissance do-it-alls like Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

Patent Holder was developed in response to a borough-wide call to celebrate the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the two Queens World's Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964. The shape the show has taken owes an enormous amount to original research contained in Deborah A. Goldberg's unpublished dissertation Isamu Noguchi: The Artist as Engineer and Visionary Designer, 1918-1939 (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, 2000).

An expanded version of Isamu Noguchi, Patent Holder: Designing the World of Tomorrow will travel to the Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery at St. John's University (1/15/15 – 3/19/15), and add a fully-illustrated catalog, in a continuing celebration of the anniversaries of Queens’ 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.

Images from top:
Study for "Musical Weathervane", 1939
Patent Document USD108837: Design for a radio casing (Radio Nurse), 1938

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Artists at Noguchi: Maria Blaisse's Breathing Sphere
Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - Sunday, January 4, 2015

For a month this winter, The Noguchi Museum presents Maria Blaisse's Arduino (Breathing Sphere), a computer-controlled, motorized sphere of woven bamboo. The installation creates a spatial and formal dialogue both with Noguchi’s work and with two more of Blaisse’s woven bamboo structures, which are being presented by slowLab at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

In the words of Oek de Jong, taken from Maria Blaisse’s monograph Emergence of Form, she “is one of the designers making an important contribution to the metamorphosis of human existence.” Blaisse’s idealism is pragmatic, rigorous and well-earned. While in the past decade she has set herself to exploring natural structural alternatives for almost anything manmade, she has also designed hats used by Issey Miyake, EVA foam costumes employed by Paula Abdul, and boots for Camper.

Blaisse tends to explore with the directness of nature: water running downhill through soft material, seeking the physically obvious answers to the questions that emerge from her material research. But she is also sympathetic to the instincts that lead us to apply our ingenuity to synthesizing, counterfeiting and opposing nature. Her resolutions of this paradox make her uniquely qualified to help lead us not to anything so twee as a post-industrial utopia, but into a more pragmatic and mutually beneficial relationship with our planet. Her latest large body of work exploring the structural potential of woven bamboo is a prime example; she is presently engaged in expanding one of her bamboo structures to the scale of architecture. 

Maria Blaisse comes to New York as part of slowLab’s 2014 Slow knowledge programming. Her bamboo structures are being presented and performed at The Noguchi Museum in partnership with slowLab, with support from the Pratt Institute and the Creative Industries Fund NL.

Related programs:
Performance and Conversation with Maria Blaisse
December 6, 1:00pm
Dancers Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, Sara Jimenez, and Cynthia Stanley will put three of Blaisse's bamboo Moving Meshes through their paces. This will be followed by a Q&A with the artist on the topic 'Slow Ecology,' moderated by slowLab.

Open Studio: Finding Form with Maria Blaisse
December 7, 11:00am to 1:00pm

Images (from top to bottom):

Arduino (Breathing Sphere), installed at The Noguchi Museum.

Dance improvisation with bamboo sphere, 2007. The Noguchi Museum will present a computer-controlled, motorized sphere. To see a human-powered sphere, see our public program event, Performance and Conversation with Maria Blaisse.

Noguchi's Early Drawings: 1927-1932
Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflecting in 1973 on his formative years as an artist, Noguchi remarked "I seem to have lost my facility but I was facile at drawing. I could do anything. It was easy for me." Noguchi's Early Drawings bears out this confidence. Each of the drawings on view reveals a very different facet of his quest to form a unique artistic identity in the years following his apprenticeship with Brancusi. His search for style is brought into sharp focus by being restricted to the subject he returned to most often: the female nude. The selection of drawings on view covers exercises from the life drawing classes he took at Academie Collarosi and L'Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris in 1927, as well as his distillations of signature strains of Modernism he encountered in Paris and New York, including traces of artists as diverse as Picasso, Tsuguharu Foujita, Elie Nadelman, Matisse, Egon Schiele, and Arstide Maillol. 

Throughout this period, Noguchi relied on drawing to keep his eye sharp for the portrait bust commissions by which he made a living, even as he used it as a tool for learning about abstraction. Like the busts, these drawings show his preternatural adaptability to sitter and circumstance. The ability to effortlessley mimic the styles of established artists has cut short as many careers as lack of talent. Facile technique does not at artist make. In these amazing drawings, so diverse and assured they could be the work of fourteen different artists, we see Noguchi at the critical moment when he could have gone either way. 



Image: Paris Abstraction, 1928 

Noguchi- Pratt Fashion: What Inspires
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - Sunday, February 23, 2014

In the fall of 2013, juniors in the Fashion Department at Pratt were introduced to Isamu Noguchi's collaborations with the avant-garde dancer/choreographer Ruth Page, for whom he created two royal blue, wool jersey sack dresses in 1932 to pose and dance in: wearable artworks that transformed her into a piece of kinetic sculpture. Still in the process of learning how to turn their interests into invention, the students then spent time at The Noguchi Museum in search of inspiration. Each student developed a garment in response to something they found. Eleven were selected in a competitive process at the end of the semester and refined over the winter break.

The winning ensembles, by students: Kiet Tran, Helena Eisenhart, Sophie Andes Gascon, Claire McKinney, Shaelyn Zhu, Chantall Galipeau, Nathanial Boon Kit Woo, Giovanna Flores, Katya Reily, Landry Low, and Nicole Maleski, will be on view at The Noguchi Museum between January 22 and February 23. 

Opening reception for the designers, their friends, and family, and the public: January 23, 6:00 to 8:00pm in the Museum's Education Room (accessible from the Garden.)

Image: Katya Reily, Ensemble, 2013