February 27, 2024

Designed by the artist himself, the Noguchi Museum opened in 1985 as the first and only museum in the country to be founded by an artist during his or her lifetime and dedicated to their work. The collection occupies a renovated photogravure building in an industrial part of Long Island City, Queens, that dates to the 1920’s and focuses on Isamu Noguchi’s extensive production, articulating the cultural times in which he worked, the many major cultural figures with whom he engaged, and his influence on the art and design of today. One of the most important artists of the 20th century, American-born Noguchi (1904 – 1988) began his apprenticeship with Brancusi in Paris before moving on to expand traditional notions of sculpture. Creating gardens, playgrounds, fountains, stage settings, lighting and together with Charles Nelson and George Eames, a line of influential modern furniture under the aegis of Herman Miller, Noguchi bridged the gap between East and West, creating landmarks in the process of integrating seemingly disparate disciplines. What is so difficult to comprehend in two-dimensional photographs  – and so fascinating to ponder in situ – is the ethereal sense of lightness Noguchi brought to bear in major compositions of marble and basalt. On the ride back to Manhattan, a quality I had never before ascribed to stone kept popping into my head:  pliant.

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