Home » Exhibitions » Noguchi at the Barbican Art Gallery from 30 September 2021 to 9 January 2022

Noguchi at the Barbican Art Gallery from 30 September 2021 to 9 January 2022

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988) is considered one of the most experimental artists of the 20th century. Barbican Art Gallery presents the first European touring retrospective of his work in 20 years.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

The exhibition traces the evolution of Noguchi’s career over six decades across sculpture, architecture, dance and design.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Drawing from The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in New York, as well as private and public collections, the exhibition brings together over 150 works, including an extraordinary range of sculptures – created in stone, bronze, ceramics, wood, aluminium and galvanised steel – as well as theatre set designs, architectural and playground models, lighting and furniture design.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

Mostly known as an icon of mid-century design for his celebrated coffee table and Akari lights, Noguchi pushed the boundaries of sculpture and this major survey celebrates Noguchi travelling across the world to China, Mexico and India, amongst other countries. Rarely exhibited archive materials and photographs also offer illuminating insights into the life of Noguchi.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

The exhibition explores all aspects of Noguchi’s prolific artistic career, from his early apprenticeship with modern master Constantin Brâncuși in Paris and celebrated Chinese brush painter Qi Baishi in Beijing, to his public and political art projects of the 1930s, and radical dance collaborations with pioneering modern choreographers Ruth Page and Martha Graham.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

The exhibition examines his celebrated interlocking sculptures produced during the 1940s. They comprise multiple parts to be assembled and dissembled, displaying Noguchi’s outstanding creativity in the face of adversity during the Second World War.

© Tim Whitby / Getty Images

The exhibition highlights Noguchi’s close and enduring friendship with inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. Their creative dialogue on the cosmic scale of the universe inspired Noguchi’s world consciousness and continued use of new technology from his artistic beginnings until his late career.

The selfilluminating Lunar sculptures were created after his devastating experience of voluntary internment at a camp for Japanese Americans in Poston, Arizona in 1942. These experiments went on to influence some of his best-known works, the Akari light sculptures. Using washi paper and electric bulbs, Akari combine traditional and modern technology, while bringing sculpture to everyday households.

The exhibition also includes an outstanding selection of his ceramics made in post-war Japan demonstrating Noguchi’s innovative approach to traditional craft techniques – he was one of the first sculptors to incorporate these within contemporary practice. His environmental designsproduced in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima address themes of violence and peace.

Photographs from his travels through Europe and Asia between 1949-50 reveal Noguchi’s exploration of artistic sculptural media into large-scale architectural environments, including his fascination with the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories in India, reiterating his combined interest in modernism and past civilisations.

The exhibition culminates with iconic large-scale works from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when he practiced between studios in the USA, Italy and Japan, and finally realised his public designs for monuments, gardens and playgrounds.

For more information and tickets , visit the Barbican website here

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