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Noguchi's Original Vision for the Museum Brought to Life in Reinstallation of Collection and Building Renovation
Installation view, second floor. Photo: George Hirose. Courtesy of The Noguchi Museum, New York.
NEW YORK, NY.- In celebration of its upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary, The Noguchi Museum presents Noguchi ReINstalled. Together with the recently completed building renovation, this special museum-wide installation revivifies the artist’s original intention for the museum he designed and its display of his life’s work. On view through October 24, 2010, Noguchi ReINstalled comprises artworks in virtually all of the mediums and genres in which the artist worked, illuminating the extraordinary range of his creativity over the course of some six decades.

Museum Director Jenny Dixon states, “The Noguchi Museum itself is widely considered to be a work of art—one of Isamu Noguchi’s greatest achievements. Today, with the renovation complete and the collection extensively researched and meticulously and sensitively reinstalled by Curator Bonnie Rychlak, the Museum has been returned to the striking and distinctive vision that informed its creation. Yet far from looking back, the Museum is looking ahead, as it continues to increase and develop its offerings, presenting vital exhibitions and public programs that expand our understanding of Noguchi and his era, and that visitors might not find elsewhere in New York.”

Reinstallation
Noguchi ReINstalled comprises some 200 works dating from the 1920s to the 1980s, installed in accordance with Noguchi’s aesthetic vision, rather than by date, genre, style, or any other overall organizing principle. As always at the Museum, the sculpture is displayed so that proximity is not restricted by platforms, barriers, or distance, enabling visitors to both walk around the works and study them closely.

The ground floor, where the installation remains largely unchanged, contains about sixty-five large-scale works. Eighteen of these are located in the first gallery that visitors encounter upon entering the Museum, a transitional “indoor-outdoor” area in which a gap of some three feet between walls and roof infuses the space with natural light. Most of the works sited here, which date from the 1980s—the final decade of the artist’s life—were made in Japan. Created primarily of basalt and granite, they reveal the diverse ways in which Noguchi came to work directly with stone, alternately scraping, scoring, breaking, and boring through the hard exterior; juxtaposing polished and rough surfaces, or rounded and angular forms, yet always respecting the inherent properties of the material. Of one such work, Mountain Breaking Theater, created a year before the Museum opened to the public, Noguchi said, “With the opening of the museum approaching, I wished to demonstrate the further reaches of sculpture in its making as well as in its effect.”

The indoor galleries on the ground floor hold a variety of work, ranging in date from 1961 to 1984. One of these, Euripides (1966), is made of white marble quarried at Altissimo, Italy, where Michelangelo also obtained marble. Comprising two separate stones, the larger reaching a height of nearly seven feet, it is a work of great mass. Yet Noguchi diminished the work’s sensation of weight by creating a hollow space in each of its two halves. This play of weight and size, and the balancing of rough and smooth, natural and man-made, yielded a work that is at once delicate and massive. Downward Pulling (1970), also on the first floor, is a broken helix of alternating Spanish Alicante and Marquina marble. The sculpture appears to be held in exquisite tension, about to either rise or descend, frozen in an instant of time.

Moving to the second floor, visitors encounter an exceptional diversity of work, ranging from sculpture in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and techniques to elements of stage sets; designs for monuments, parks, and gardens; design objects, and more.

Noguchi’s attention to the base, and his belief that it is an integral part of the work, become especially clear in viewing the sculptures displayed on this floor. The polished granite, horizontal Night Wind (1970), for example, rests on a vertical wooden base that serves as a fulcrum for and offers a beautiful textural contrast to the sculpture it holds. In another example, Noguchi placed four small sculptures—three portrait heads from 1931 and the abstract Daruma of 1952—side-by-side on a large wooden base, thereby establishing a coherence and dialogue among the works and between the works and the base.

Noguchi’s sets for the Martha Graham Dance Company are regarded as high points in the history of modern dance theater. One of the highlights of the present reinstallation is the original platform created for Graham’s dance Embattled Garden (1958). The multi-colored wooden platform, measuring about 9.5 x 9 feet and set at an angle to the floor, is pierced by slender rattan poles that reach a height of 9.5 feet. Directly across from this are two maquettes for a public monument for the city of Philadelphia: the original proposal, Monument to Benjamin Franklin (1933), and the final version, which was only realized after several decades, Bolt of Lightning … Memorial to Benjamin Franklin (1984). Also in this gallery are models and photographs of Noguchi-designed gardens, ranging from the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden in Jerusalem (1960–65) to the design for the neverbuilt but seminal Riverside Park Playground, created in collaboration with architect Louis Kahn (1961–66).

Noguchi’s celebrated Akari Light Sculptures, lamps made of mulberry-bark paper and wire, are anticipated by a work on view in an adjacent gallery. Lunar Infant (1944), comprising a small abstract form suspended from a wooden framework, is lit from within.

Almost at the opposite extreme of the large stone sculptures on the ground floor are works like Cloud (1958–59), a thin sheet of aluminum—with its modern, urban associations so different from those of marble and basalt—into which Noguchi cut a pattern of straight lines at diverse angles.

Other works here also offer a contrast with the carved, textural works on the ground floor. Hanging Man (1973), Trinity (1974), and Figure (1965), for example, all consist of slender, discrete elements that interlock or are suspended one from another.

The Noguchi Museum’s celebrated sculpture garden has also been brought back to its original appearance, following the return of several pivotal works that had been on loan. With sculpture ranging from The Well (1982), with the delicate sound of water gently flowing over its large basalt form; to Indian Dancer (1965–66), made of a pink granite found in the hills around Okayama, Japan; to Uruguayan (1973), Core (1978), and Practice Rocks in Placement (1982–83), the garden continues to be both a sublime work of art and a wellloved place of rest and contemplation in an urban environment.

Museum Renovation
The Noguchi Museum began plans for extensive renovation in the 1990s, when it was discovered that the building, which is located in close proximity to the East River, had settled unevenly over the course of time, putting stress on the brick walls. The first phase of the renovation began in 2002 and extended over the course of two-and-a-half years, during which time the Museum operated out of temporary quarters. Work completed during this phase included ensuring the building’s structural integrity and handicap-accessibility; redesigning and relocating the shop and café; adding heating and cooling systems, which for the first time enabled the Museum to remain open year-round; and creating new space in the basement for education and public programs and for on-site storage. Upon reopening in spring 2004, the Museum initiated an ongoing program of temporary exhibitions.

The recent, second phase of the renovation built upon the earlier work, completing the structural stabilization and climate control—which will better enable the Museum to borrow works for its exhibition program—and rebuilding the Museum entrance to accommodate a seating area for visitors. In addition, previously blocked vistas through the galleries, as well as views from the galleries to the sculpture garden outside, have been recaptured, and the garden gate and wall have been replaced.

The renovation of The Noguchi Museum was designed by Sage and Coombe Architects.

The Noguchi Museum | Altissimo | Italy | Michelangelo | New York | Alicante |


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