November 30, 2016 - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern
November 11, 2016–March 19, 2017 

Curator talk and webcast by Dakin Hart: December 1, 6pm
November 30, 2016

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern
November 11, 2016–March 19, 2017 

Curator talk and webcast by Dakin Hart: December 1, 6pm

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Eighth and F Streets N.W.
Washington, D.C., 20004
Hours: Monday–Sunday 11:30am–7pm

T +1 202 633 1000
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Curator talk by Dakin Hart: December 1, 6pm. A webcast of the talk by Dakin Hart will be available here.

Isamu Noguchi (1904–88) was among the most innovative American sculptors and designers of the 20th century. His design for Sculpture to Be Seen from Mars (1947) anticipates the space age by several decades. Even as he created works that were far ahead of his time, Noguchi frequently found inspiration in ancient art and architecture—from Egyptian pyramids and Buddhist temples to Zen gardens and American Indian burial mounds. Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern explores how the ancient world shaped this artist’s vision for the future.

Dakin Hart, senior curator at The Noguchi Museum, and Karen Lemmey, curator of sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, organized the exhibition. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the sole venue for this exhibition, which is expanded from an earlier installation at The Noguchi Museum.

“Isamu Noguchi—born in Los Angeles, raised and educated in Japan, Indiana, New York and Paris—was among the first American artists to think like a citizen of the world,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The exhibition is the latest in a series of major shows to examine the contributions of such international artists as Nam June Paik, Christo, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Tamayo, and their broad perspectives.”

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern brings together 74 works, nearly all on loan from The Noguchi Museum, made during the artist’s six-decade career. The artworks reflect Noguchi’s striving for timelessness through the abstraction of things, places and ideas. Featured works—including several monolithic basalt sculptures, fountains, designs for stage sets and playgrounds and floating Akari light sculptures—are organized in themes of particular interest to Noguchi: landscape, invention, the atomic age, outer space and social spaces. Noguchi saw himself as both artist and inventor, and the exhibition devotes special attention to his patented designs, such as Radio Nurse, the first baby monitor.

“The juxtaposition of the terms ‘archaic’ and ‘modern’ is an attempt to fold space-time in a way that is true to Noguchi’s attempts to make the practice of sculpture an expression of relativity in the modern, Einsteinian sense,” said Hart. “Noguchi exists somewhere in the fusion of these two abstract notions of time, and my hope is that by exhibiting his sculptures in thematic groupings we add to the scope of their meaningfulness and highlight the adaptability of Noguchi’s values to the future.”

“Noguchi’s work—which encompasses tradition and progress, the timeless and the modern—still resonates with contemporary audiences despite being created decades ago,” said Lemmey. “It is particularly wonderful to see the museum’s Grey Sun, which was a gift from Noguchi, in this broader context that shows how ahead of his times Noguchi was with his unique perspective on global culture.”

The exhibition catalog includes an essay by Hart. The book, published by the museum in association with D Giles Limited, London, can be purchased through the museum's online store

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Additional generous support has been provided by the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool of the Smithsonian Institution, Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, The Japan Foundation, Japan-United States Friendship Commission, Thelma and Melvin Lenkin, Margery and Edgar Masinter Exhibitions Fund, Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman, and Lucy S. Rhame.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than four centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30am to 7pm daily (closed December 25). Admission is free. Museum information (recorded): T (202) 633 7970. Smithsonian information: T (202) 633 1000.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
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