QUEENS, N.Y. – An exhibition of more than 200 photographs and drawings created by abstract sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) during worldwide travels funded by a grant from the Bollingen Foundation is currently on view at the temporary quarters of The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. “Noguchi: , Photographs and Drawings 1949-1956” documents the artist’s extended visits to places ranging from Italy to Egypt to India to Nepal to Japan. On view through October 13, it is the final exhibition in the museum’s temporary space in Sunnyside before it moves to its renovated permanent home on Vernon Boulevard.
Noguchi is internationally recognized as a prolific and gifted sculptor and designer of furniture, state sets and public spaces, but he was also an enthusiastic photographer and draftsman and an indefatigable traveler. At a time when much of the avant-garde in New York turned inward, devoting its attention and energy to the solitary work of the artist in the studio, Noguchi turned outward, focusing his attention on examining the creative achievements of other cultures. With the support of the Bollingen Foundation, established by Paul and Mary Conover Mellon, he compiled images and ideas for a never-completed book about “environments of leisure” and documented sources of spiritual inspiration and formal invention that would inform his work for years to come. The current exhibition is installed to echo the artist’s itineraries.
The first of Noguchi’s two extended odysseys began at the prehistoric caves of France and continued through Italy, Spain, Greece, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Bali, Thailand (Siam), Cambodia and Japan. At each destination, he studied monumental, classical, communal and spiritual spaces and structures. On later trips he revisited many sites and traveled to new ones in countries including England, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Nepal.
Although Noguchi was ostensibly investigating “environments of leisure” during his travels, he made a significant amount of work that actively engaged him with the countries he visited. In India, for example, he sculpted a portrait head of Nehru and designed a memorial to Gandhi. In postwar Japan he designed and realized his first garden and his first complete interior space, contributed a bridge design to the ravaged city of Hiroshima, and helped revitalize the traditional craft of lampmaking with his own Akari designs, which are still in production today.
“Noguchi: , Photographs and Drawings 1949-1956” was organized by the museum and is curated by Bonnie Rychlak, curator, The Isamu Noguchi Museum and Foundation.
Noguchi founded the Noguchi Museum in 1985, creating an open-air sculpture garden surrounded by 13 galleries that present his work. The design of the museum meets Noguchi’s vision for an intimate, reflective space in which to experience sculpture. Today, the Isamu Noguchi Foundation maintains the museum, and manages the world’s largest and most extensive collection of his organic sculptures, architectural models, stage designs, drawings, furniture and lamps, in addition to his complete archives.
The museum’s temporary quarters are at 36-01 43rd Avenue, Sunnyside, Queens, while its permanent facility at 32-37 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, is undergoing renovation. Following the closing of “Noguchi: ,” the museum will continue to present public and educational programming, but will not hold any exhibitions until the renovated facility opens. Museum offices will return to the permanent building in the fall, and the museum is scheduled to open to the public on April 1, 2004.
For information, 718-545-8842 or www.noguchi.org.