Isamu Noguchi Museum

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go?
Time spent 100 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned It’s surprisingly difficult to pick a favorite! But I will call out Walking Void #2 (1970), which is a highly finished piece of granite, utterly harmonious and balanced.Isamu Noguchi Museum, Walking Void #2

Noguchi. I’d always meant to visit the Isamu Noguchi Museum in Queens.  I love Japan, and it always sounded like a good little museum to visit.  But then again, I only really knew Noguchi from blocks of stone that looked unfinished to me, like the sculptor gave up halfway through, and that famous curvy wood and glass coffee table from the 1950s.

So it never made it to the top of my to-do list.

To sum up, it’s amazing. I won’t look at or think about his work the same way again.  Seeing it in its own company, and understanding how it evolved, or how he evolved, was joyous and eye-opening.

One of the great things about this place is how well the art and the spaces complement one another. Definitely not a showy building, it combines a converted garage, a garden, and a more finished indoor space–providing a variety of contexts to see the pieces, and big enough space to give them breathing room and let them do their thing.  It blurs outdoor and indoor space brilliantly, through a open corner in the garage, and well-positioned windows.Nature Inside at Isamu Noguchi Museum

Tree View, Isamu Noguchi MuseumIf I had to sum up my impression of Noguchi, it feels to me like he was all about letting the stone tell its own story.  Early on he intervened more, but as he developed as an artist, he began to feel that the stone could be more eloquent the less he did to it.  A polished surface here and there, a hole, would suffice to complement and contrast with the rough natural surfaces, and the ones that bore the scars of quarrying and moving these huge rocks around.

Balanced Sculpture, Isamu Noguchi Museum

There’s something clever and humorous in his way of making granite look…plastic, pliable, like he just gave it a little twist and set it on a wooden plinth, that belies the actual thought and work required to achieve the appearance.  I now see how carries through to his later works as well.

I also learned a lot about his life as someone who went between cultures, and I really appreciated that each room had laminated sheets that described the thought process in the art presented, but also where possible quoted Noguchi himself.  It was a lot to read, but at least it wasn’t on the walls. And unlike some artists, he was pretty eloquent about what he was trying to do. It was, well, edifying.

There was also a space reserved for temporary exhibits of art inspired or influenced by Noguchi.  When I was there it was photographs by Leah Raintree, who used very clever lighting to shoot Noguchi works like they were asteroids or distant worlds.  It was a totally different and unexpected way to see what he was doing, and as a bit of a space nut, it resonated with me.

So go!  Go to the Noguchi Museum!  If you are a fan of his already, well, you’ve already been there.  But if you’re not, visiting might just turn you into one.

For Reference:

Address  9-01 33rd Rd, Queens, NY 11106
Website Noguchi Museum
Admission Cost  General Admission:  $10
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