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Isamu Noguchi's Atelier

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Isamu Noguchi's Atelier

"We are a landscape of all we have seen." -Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi, born in 1904 in Los Angeles to the Japanese poet Yone Noguchi and the American writer Leonie Gilmour, is one of my favorite artists; indeed, he is one of the 20th century's most important sculptors creating lasting pieces of art, from landscape to furniture, around the world. 

He worked as an assistant to Constantin Brancusi (another favorite) and was a friend to artist and sculptor Alexander Calder (and another!), who began his career around the same time as Noguchi.

Noguchi was fond of using natural media for his work - washi in his sculptural Akari lights for Vitra and stone, wood, and marble for his life-sized abstract pieces. He often paired furniture and sculptural pieces together, creating environmental art enveloping the viewer in a sensorial embrace.

In the Japanese island of Shikoku, Noguchi set up his stone workshop. Takamatsu, Shikoku is an area known for excellent stone quality and stone masons. During the last two decades of his life, Noguchi spent the better part of spring and autumn on this wild island, working exclusively in stone. After his death in 1999, the studio became a museum, his atelier and living space preserved as it was when he lived there.

We paid a visit in July, the summer heat a contrast to the silent sanctuary of the late artist's estate.

His house and atelier ishidden from plain sight in the mountains where giant stone and bamboo flank the winding roads, making for a pleasant drive (we drove all the way from Tokyo, stopping by Kyoto and Nara for a few days along the way). There, plenty of finished and unfinished work in varying stages of the sculpting process give an insight to Noguchi's way of working with beautiful imposing stone.

"It is said that stone is the affection of old men... It is the most challenging to work with. A dialogue ensues – of chance no chance, mistakes no mistakes. No erasing or reproduction is possible, at least in the way I work, leaving nature’s mark. It is unique and final." -Isamu Noguchi

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