Sunday, January 15, 2006

Modern Masters: Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi was mighty prolific.

His best known work is the iconic (and some might say clich├ęd) biomorphic
cocktail table, often seen insensitively placed smack between the black leather overstuffed sofa and Ikea entertainment center of many a bachelor pad.

Yet, Noguchi was first and foremost a
sculptor.


Contrary to popular belief, Noguchi was American. Born in California at the turn of the 20th century to an American mother and Japanese poet father, Noguchi spent a large portion of his childhood in Japan, where he formed a deep appreciation for the native aesthetic.

He studied at Columbia, originally intending to become a doctor. After changing courses in his studies, he eventually landed a Guggenheim fellowship in Paris and apprenticed under Constantin Brancusi. For the rest of his life, Noguchi considered himself a student of other artists. His humble approach to his work became a personal trademark and gained him the highest respect of his contemporaries.

Noguchi sought to have us view our world through a new set of eyes.

"Sculpture becomes for me a preoccupation with impalpable voids and pressures, the punctuation of spaces. If sculpture is the rock, it is also the space between the rock and between the rock and man, and a communication and contemplation between."

Noguchi's Akari lamps, made of mulberry paper, wire and bamboo, are an affordable and accessible way to live with his work. Available through a thousand online and retail sources, they lend a sculptural and etherial quality to the home. True functional art. I never tire of looking at them.

The Noguchi Museum, which opened in 1985 in Queens, holds an extensive collection of the master's work and maintains his archives. The Noguchi Garden Museum, located in Mure, Japan, preserves his working studio and garden and exhibits many pieces, some unfinished.

Isamu Noguchi helped change the way we see. He was a sculptor, designer, architect and craftsman. His work was powerful and personal. He created permanent ties between East and West.

And, if that cliched cocktail table lends just a tiny bit of thoughtful design to all those bachelor pads, is that such a bad thing?

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