Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was one of the most important and critically acclaimed 20th-century sculptors. Born in Los Angeles to an American mother and Japanese father, he spent his childhood in Japan and moved back to the United States where he studied medicine and, at the same time, took evening sculpture classes. Encouraged by his teacher Onorio Ruotolo, he decided to quit school to devote himself exclusively to art. In 1926, Noguchi was dazzled by the solo exhibition of Constantin Brancusi's work at the Brummer Gallery in New York. Thanks to a scholarship from John Simon Guggenheim, he moved to Paris for two years to work in Brancusi's studio, where he produced highly expressive, lyrical and emotional works in a style tending towards abstraction. Noguchi returned to the United States but left very soon thereafter, again thanks to a scholarship. Attracted by muralism, Noguchi went to Mexico, where he studied with the great Diego Rivera, working on the decoration of the Mercado Abelardo Rodríguez in Mexico City.
In 1938, he was offered the commission for a large sculpture dedicated to the freedom of the press for the façade of the Associated Press building in New York's Rockefeller Center. From this point on, Noguchi devoted himself to site-specific projects integrating sculpture with physical space. His experiments included theatre sets (particularly for the Martha Graham dance company), playgrounds (like those designed in the 1960s with architect Louis Kahn) and gardens. The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), established and designed by the artist in Long Island City, marked the culmination of his commitment to public space. Surrounded by a sculpture garden, the museum is housed in a 1920s industrial building near the artist's studio. His studio in Mure, Japan also became a Garden Museum.
Noguchi was also active in the field of interior design. Two Noguchi-designed objects are particularly noteworthy. The Noguchi table with a glass top and wooden base was produced by Herman Miller starting in 1947 (and since 1984 produced and marketed by Vitra for the European market). His Akari light sculptures, which began production in 1951, are still handcrafted with Japanese paper.
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