CULTURE

A tribute to Isamu Noguchi

Far from the busy streets of New York City’s Manhattan Island, tucked away in a neighborhood in Queens that is full of old warehouses, the Noguchi Museum is like a small oasis. Its surroundings convey the serenity that one encounters in Japanese gardens while its exquisite sculptures, which are reminiscent of organic formations, tenderly and silently carry visitors into a different dimension. Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), the sculptor who managed to bring together two cultures, as his mother was American and his father Japanese, saw to it that this wonderful building was completed while he was still alive. Now Greek audiences will have the opportunity to see for the first time many of Noguchi’s works at the large tribute being organized this summer by the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Andros. Titled «Between East and West,» the exhibition opens on June 26 and will feature 76 exhibits, including sculptures and drawings, as well as photographs from set designs and public projects by the artist in Europe, Asia and the United States. Noguchi struggled to strike a balance between two worlds which, at one point, were also enemies – including World War II. He was a great admirer of Greece, another bridge between the East and West, a country he became acquainted with initially through the stories of his writer mother and later on due to his own travels. Classical sculpture always fascinated him. The distinguished sculptor was well traveled and open to influences from different cultures and aesthetics. In Mexico, he discovered the charm of large-sized works, while in Japan, his second homeland, the serenity of beautiful gardens. In China, he found the magic of Chinese ink and in Italy the power of marble. One of his favorite sayings was that he was wandering around a world that was getting smaller very quickly. In his rich body of work, he brought together different techniques and experimented with various materials, such as steel, iron, wood, bronze, alloys and basalt. Forces of nature, such as air, fire, earth and water, also inspired him to produce works. A landmark in Noguchi’s life was seeing the works of Constantin Brancusi, when he visited the Romanian artist’s exhibition in New York in 1926. From 1927 to 1929, Noguchi won a scholarship to Paris and, during his stay there, he worked for six months in Brancusi’s studio. Along with ancient Greek sculpture, the influence of Brancusi’s avant-garde work helped the Japanese-American artist to develop his own style of abstraction. Noguchi’s contribution to design is also noteworthy and some of the objects of mass production he designed in the 40s and 50s are still produced today. His involvement with set design was equally fruitful. In the theater, he collaborated with acclaimed artists such as choreographers Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine as well as composer John Cage. In the New York museum, there is a special mention of the love Noguchi had for theater. The artist represented the United States at the 42nd Venice Biennale in 1986, two years before his death. The first large retrospective of his work took place at New York’s Whitney Museum in 1968 and throughout his career he received major awards. The exhibition on Andros will follow the presentation of other great artists’ work, including Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Auguste Rodin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Joan Miro. The tribute will run to September 26.