written by:
November 18, 2010

On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries,1922-1960 recently opened at the Noguchi Museum. Marking the museum’s 25th anniversary, the exhibition looks at how Noguchi’s network of friends, mentors and colleagues influenced his work and helped him throughout his prolific career. Objects on view include personal correspondence, architectural models, paintings, drawings, musical scores, photographs, and furniture, inviting viewers into Noguchi’s biography and oeuvre. One thing not on view: his ubiquitous 1947 coffee table. Instead, curator Amy Wolf opted to display things that haven’t been exhibited before, including a c.1945 marble-top table, and c.1941-1942 mosaic-top table, both prototypes. I chatted with Ms. Wolf at the opening, and here’s what she had to say.

On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries is on view at the Noguchi Museum in Queens until April 24, 2011.
On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries is on view at the Noguchi Museum in Queens until April 24, 2011.
1 / 4
In researching for the exhibition curator Amy Wolf discovered this mosaic-top table (c. 1941-1942). She came across one of Noguchi’s archived letters mentioning the idea and a thumbnail sketch and decided to do some digging. Prior to her research, the mus
In researching for the exhibition curator Amy Wolf discovered this mosaic-top table (c. 1941-1942). She came across one of Noguchi’s archived letters mentioning the idea and a thumbnail sketch and decided to do some digging. Prior to her research, the museum didn’t know this table existed. A prototype never put into production, the table is one of a kind and has never been displayed. The c .1945 mahogany lamp at left was produced by Knoll.
2 / 4
Noguchi’s personal network is a who’s-who list of artists, dancers, designers, and architects, all neatly organized in this graphic. Analyzing these relationships helps to better contextualize Noguchi’s work.
Noguchi’s personal network is a who’s-who list of artists, dancers, designers, and architects, all neatly organized in this graphic. Analyzing these relationships helps to better contextualize Noguchi’s work.
3 / 4
                               The comprehensive exhibition offers a diverse selection of Noguchi’s work and is organized thematically. Of note is the furniture on display, which traces the how Noguchi’s designs evolved over time.
The comprehensive exhibition offers a diverse selection of Noguchi’s work and is organized thematically. Of note is the furniture on display, which traces the how Noguchi’s designs evolved over time.
4 / 4
On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries is on view at the Noguchi Museum in Queens until April 24, 2011.
On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries is on view at the Noguchi Museum in Queens until April 24, 2011.

How has looking at the relationships between Noguchi and his peers helped better understand and inform his work?
Surely talent and will-power are important parts of Noguchi’s career, but so is his large and complex web of relationships. Some are people well-known, others not known to the public; Noguchi was like a sponge with them all. For example, somebody like [Constantin] Brancusi taught Noguchi how to handle materials like stone and marble, how to use the necessary tools and connect to the artwork.
What was the most interesting aspect about Noguchi’s career you’ve discovered in the process of researching for the exhibition?
If anything interesting was happening in the [art] world, Noguchi had to personally experience it for himself. When Mexican murals started to take off, he went to Mexico to work with the muralists. When he wanted to learn about Chinese ink paintings, he had to be in China.
What message can those familiar and new to Noguchi’s work expect to leave the exhibition with?
Becoming an artist is partly what you’re born with and partly what you make it. Noguchi had to find people, find apprenticeships, and to find something to say. You can have technique, but you have to marry skill with having something to say.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016