38 Facts About Isamu Noguchi


Isamu Noguchi was an American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward.

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In 1947, Isamu Noguchi began a collaboration with the Herman Miller company, when he joined with George Nelson, Paul Laszlo and Charles Eames to produce a catalog containing what is often considered to be the most influential body of modern furniture ever produced, including the iconic Isamu Noguchi table which remains in production today.

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Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles, the son of Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet who was acclaimed in the United States, and Leonie Gilmour, an American writer who edited much of Noguchi's work.

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In 1912, while the two were living in Chigasaki, Isamu Noguchi's half-sister, pioneer of the American Modern Dance movement Ailes Gilmour, was born to Leonie and an unknown Japanese father.

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In 1918, Isamu Noguchi was sent back to the US for schooling in Rolling Prairie, Indiana.

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Isamu Noguchi began attending La Porte High School, graduating in 1922.

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Isamu Noguchi did pick up some skills in casting from Borglum's Italian assistants, later fashioning a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

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Isamu Noguchi then traveled to New York City, reuniting with the Rumely family at their new residence, and with Dr Rumely's financial aid enrolled in February 1922 as a premedical student at Columbia University.

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In 1924, while still enrolled at Columbia, Isamu Noguchi followed his mother's advice to take night classes at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School.

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Only three months later, Isamu Noguchi held his first exhibit, a selection of plaster and terracotta works.

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Isamu Noguchi soon dropped out of Columbia University to pursue sculpture full-time, changing his name from Gilmour to Noguchi.

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Isamu Noguchi was awarded the grant despite being three years short of the age requirement.

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Isamu Noguchi arrived in Paris in April 1927 and soon afterward met the American author Robert McAlmon, who brought him to Constantin Brancusi's studio for an introduction.

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Meanwhile, Isamu Noguchi found himself in good company in France, with letters of introduction from Michio Ito helping him to meet such artists as Jules Pascin and Alexander Calder, who lived in the studio of Arno Breker.

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Isamu Noguchi only produced one sculpture – his marble Sphere Section – in his first year, but during his second year he stayed in Paris and continued his training in stoneworking with the Italian sculptor Mateo Hernandes, producing over twenty more abstractions of wood, stone and sheet metal.

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Isamu Noguchi did so and there met Buckminster Fuller, with whom he collaborated on several projects, including the modeling of Fuller's Dymaxion car.

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Isamu Noguchi soon found himself accepting commissions from wealthy and celebrity clients.

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Isamu Noguchi left for Paris in April 1930, and two months later received his visa to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway.

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Isamu Noguchi opted to visit Japan first rather than India, but after learning that his father Yone did not want his son to visit using his surname, a shaken Noguchi instead departed for Beijing.

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Isamu Noguchi later arrived in Kyoto to study pottery with Uno Jinmatsu.

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Isamu Noguchi returned to New York amidst the Great Depression, finding few clients for his portrait busts.

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Isamu Noguchi was eventually dropped from the program, and again supported himself by sculpting portrait busts.

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In early 1935, after another solo exhibition, the New York Sun's Henry McBride labeled Isamu Noguchi's Death, depicting a lynched African-American, as "a little Japanese mistake".

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Isamu Noguchi met Frida Kahlo during this time and had a brief but passionate affair with her; they remained friends until her death.

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Isamu Noguchi designed the Zenith Radio Nurse, the iconic original baby monitor now held in many museum collections.

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Isamu Noguchi again began to turn out portrait busts, and after various proposals was selected for two sculptures.

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Noguchi and other group leaders wrote to influential officials, including the congressional committee headed by Representative John H Tolan, hoping to halt the internment of Japanese Americans; Noguchi later attended the hearings but had little effect on their outcome.

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Isamu Noguchi later helped organize a documentary of the internment, but left California before its release; as a legal resident of New York, he was allowed to return home.

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Isamu Noguchi hoped to prove Japanese-American loyalty by somehow helping the war effort, but when other governmental departments turned him down, Noguchi met with John Collier, head of the Office of Indian Affairs, who persuaded him to travel to the internment camp located on an Indian reservation in Poston, Arizona, to promote arts and crafts and community.

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Isamu Noguchi arrived at the Poston camp in May 1942, becoming its only voluntary internee.

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Isamu Noguchi first worked in a carpentry shop, but his hope was to design parks and recreational areas within the camp.

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Isamu Noguchi had found nothing in common with the Nisei, who regarded him as a strange outsider.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accusing him of espionage, launched into a full investigation of Isamu Noguchi which ended only through the American Civil Liberties Union's intervention.

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Isamu Noguchi developed a relationship with Knoll, designing furniture and lamps.

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In March 1949, Isamu Noguchi had his first one-person show in New York since 1935 at the Charles Egan Gallery.

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The exhibition, entitled 33 MacDougal Alley: The Interlocking Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, featured eleven of the artist's interlocking sculptures.

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Isamu Noguchi was married to the ethnic-Japanese icon of Chinese song and cinema Yoshiko Yamaguchi, between 1952 and 1957.

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Isamu Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988.

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