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Exhibition brings work of provocative designer Robert Stadler together with that of Isamu Noguchi
Installation view, ‘Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum,’ April 26 – September 3, 2017. The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, NY. Photos: Nicholas Knight / ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- Continuing its engagement with contemporary artists of all disciplines, The Noguchi Museum presents Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum. Comprising four distinct installations that display work by the two men in tandem, the exhibition explores the ways in which both Robert Stadler and Isamu Noguchi probe—and sometimes undermine—the nature of and distinctions between “art” and “design,” “functional” and “aesthetic,” and “material” and “space,” among other object-based concepts. Organized by The Noguchi Museum and curated by Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart in collaboration with Stadler, the exhibition opened on April 26, 2017, and remains on view through September 3.

Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon notes, “This exhibition, the Museum’s first to feature a contemporary designer’s work in dialogue with Noguchi’s sculptures and designs, is a powerful demonstration of Noguchi’s lasting relevance. Beyond that, in pairing his work with that of the exceptional Robert Stadler, Solid Doubts opens new ways of looking at the practice of both, which is exactly what an exhibition should do. We are additionally pleased that the exhibition is part of Oui Design, a program initiated by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.”

Mr. Hart adds, “Robert Stadler works the fertile land where conceptual, aesthetic, functional, and material considerations meet. This is the same zone that Noguchi explored and labored so hard to expand during his six decades as a category-defier. It is hoped that each installation, and the exhibition overall, will make a case for the reification of ambivalence and assert every object’s right and responsibility to self-doubt.”

As implied by its title, Solid Doubts is intended to make us think anew rather than to make pronouncements. Indeed, ambiguity is central to each of the four installations, three in the galleries and one in the Museum’s sculpture garden. Together, they create a critique of traditional notions of the relationship between furniture and sculpture, among other ideas.

The installations are as follows:

• A table, mirror, and bench from Stadler’s travertine PDT (Pierre de taille, or, roughly “cut stone”) series (all 2015) mingle with an equal number of pieces from Noguchi’s whitewashed plywood set for Martha Graham’s Hérodiade (1944): a stool, a mirror, and a clothes rack. Stadler’s ancientseeming, digitally-milled furniture creates a near-mythic, somewhat theatrical interior in which Noguchi’s set elements have the opportunity to become players. The installation gives free rein to both artists’ obsession with the potential of furniture to create microcosmic landscape environments.

• Stadler’s exquisitely tailored, tufted-leather Pools & Pouf! (2004) are interspersed with examples of Noguchi’s forays into what he long characterized as light sculpture. Stadler describes Pools & Pouf! as a frozen moment of transformation, in which one of the archetypes of the traditional living room ensemble—upholstered seating—disintegrates, or melts, prior to reconstitution. A similar reprogramming of our material environment also underlies Noguchi’s ongoing work with light. A superb example of one of his Lunars, a prototype lunar lamp intended for mass production, and a pair of Akari lanterns show Noguchi engaging in an analogous process of redefinition.

• Stadler’s ongoing Cut_Paste series, represented here by a low table and two examples of shelving, one a free-standing vertical, the other a bench in front of a wall-mounted backplane, is combined with sculptures by Noguchi. The Cut_Paste works (all 2015)—assemblages of different marble veneers affixed to lightweight aluminum panels—are something like a thumb in the eye of traditional “good taste.” The veneers appear to have been haphazardly collected, perhaps from among the leftovers of some luxury building project. Stadler’s furniture assemblages are accessorized by examples of Noguchi’s sculpture featuring equally strong collisions of metal and stone, and also constructed primarily from flat raw materials.

• Finally, the sculpture garden, designed by Noguchi, is the site of a chair and coffee table from Stadler’s Rest in Peace series (2008–10). The elements of Rest in Peace are products of a process of distressing common plastic lawn furniture and then elevating the results through careful material transmutation. The white-painted, cast-aluminum chair and table appear to be in the process of dissolution, though they should last forever, while Noguchi’s sculptures, which seem eternal, are in fact eroding away, if on a geological timescale.

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