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Isamu Noguchi

33 MacDougal Alley: The Interlocking Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi

About Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi (b. 1904, Los Angeles; d. 1988, New York) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculpture, furniture, and lighting designs, drawings, ceramics, architecture, landscape, and set designs. Noguchi believed strongly in art and design’s social role and dedicated much of his life to creating public works such as parks, plazas, and fountains throughout the world.

In 1985, Noguchi opened the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, now known as the Noguchi Museum, in Long Island City, New York, a public space designed by the artist to exhibit, document, and preserve his oeuvre. His work is held in numerous public collections worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Japan; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

Press Release

  • 33 MacDougal Alley: The Interlocking Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi
    The first exhibition to illustrate the historical significance of the relationship between MacDougal Alley and Isamu Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures will be on view at PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street, New York, New York, from September 12 through October 4, 2003. The exhibition, entitled 33 MacDougal Alley: The Interlocking Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, will feature eleven of the artist’s interlocking sculptures and will be accompanied by a catalogue with historical photographs and Noguchi’s writings about the time period. During his residence at MacDougal Alley (1942–1949), Noguchi made twenty-six interlocking sculptures out of marble, wood, and slate. Over the next forty years, he selected ten to cast into editions of eight using bronze or aluminum. The exhibition will showcase these works, and will also include Untitled, a recently discovered slate sculpture. PaceWildenstein has collaborated with The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum to include a room in the exhibition devoted to historical objects related to Noguchi’s life at MacDougal Alley. Photographs of the artist and his work, both in his studio and in his garden behind MacDougal Alley, will be on display. The exhibition will also exhibit press material from the 1940’s featuring Noguchi and the catalogue from the Fourteen Americans exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures explore biomophic imagery of European Surrealism and investigate the fragmentation and perception of space. While making the interlocking sculptures at MacDougal Alley, the artist, who stated that he wanted to continue his “research into space, plus plane, plus void,” explored the punctuation of empty space through creation, the tension between voids and pressures, and the balance between negative and positive space. As expressed in his artist statement for The Museum of Modern Art’s Fourteen Americans exhibition, Noguchi firmly believed “it is the sculptor who orders and animates space, gives it meaning.” Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles in 1904 to American writer Léonie Gilmour and Japanese poet Yonejiro (Yone) Noguchi. In 1929, after working in Brancusi’s studio in Paris, he returned to New York City, where he had been living; in 1942, he moved into a new studio on MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village. MacDougal Alley was originally built in the 1830’s as stables for wealthy families in the neighborhood of Greenwich Village and Washington Square. The turn of the century marked the beginning of its history as a dynamic artists’ community. Many of the stables were transformed into studios, and were inhabited from approximately 1907-1950 by artists and high-society bohemians, such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Henry Kirke Bush-Brown, Daniel Chester French, Gaston Lachaise, and Alfonso Ossorio. While Noguchi was living and working at MacDougal Alley, he was involved in several private commissions of public sculpture and was included in many important exhibitions. His light sculptures from the early 1940’s evolved into Lunars, which are self-illuminated sculptures and wall panels. In 1947, Noguchi created Lunar ceilings for American Stove Company Building in Saint Louis and Time-Life Building in New York City. The following year Noguchi designed a Lunar wall relief for a staircase in the S.S. Argentina. The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum was founded by Noguchi in 1985, helping to pioneer the transformation of Long Island City into an arts destination. With an open-air sculpture garden surrounded by galleries, the Museum presents a retrospective of Noguchi’s diverse artistic achievements. The Museum, which is today maintained by the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, is currently undergoing renovation. Until October 13, 2003, it is located in temporary quarters at 36-01 43rd Avenue, in Long Island City. The renovated Museum reopens in April 2004.



Isamu Noguchi

2003. PaceWildenstein. Paperback

36 pages: 11 illustrations; 11 ¼ x 7 ¾ inches



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