Artists Past & Present

Featured Artist

Isamu Noguchi Portrait Sculptor

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November 17th 1904 - December 30th 1988
Born in Los Angeles, California, to a Japanese father, the poet, Yone Noguchi, and the American writer], Leonie Gilmour, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of thirteen, when he moved to Indiana. While studying pre-medicine at Columbia University, he took evening sculpture classes on New York's Lower East Side, mentoring with the sculptor Onorio Ruotolo. He soon left the University to become an academic sculptor.


With a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Noguchi went to Paris, and from 1927 to 1929 worked in Brancusi's studio, where he was clearly inspired by the older artist's reductive forms.
From 1935 he made ​​several sets for theater stages and collaborated on a score of works by the choreographer, Martha Graham, that began a lifelong collaboration, as well as for dancers/choreographers Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, and George Balanchine and composer John Cage.


In early 1942, when the USA entered the war, Ginger Rogers commissioned him to create a sculpture of her. Shortly after Noguchi made the initial sketches, he was forced to relocate by the United States government. But Noguchi took his work with him, even having the pink marble he used to create the piece sent from Georgia to his internment camp in Poston, Arizona.


After 1950 his most ambitious projects were intended for outdoor spaces, designed according to aesthetic principles of Japanese gardens, where large abstract sculptures are arranged in predetermined locations to achieve a balance between them, the spaces and gardens that make up and architecture that surrounds them.


In 1985 Noguchi opened The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), in Long Island City, New York. The Museum, established and designed by the artist, marked the culmination of his commitment to public spaces. Located in a 1920s industrial building across the street from where the artist had established a studio in 1960, it has a serene outdoor sculpture garden, and many galleries that display Noguchi's work, along with photographs and models from his career.


He travelled extensively throughout his life and as with other aspects of his work, the portraits strongly reflect his exploration of a wide range of technique and materials.


Noguchi's first retrospective in the United States was in 1968, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City. In 1986, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988.


He died in New York City in 1988.
A variety of sources