Larger Type
Smaller Type


Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern

November 11, 2016 – March 19, 2017

Image for Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern

Isamu Noguchi, Grey Sun, 1967, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was among the most innovative American sculptors of the twentieth century, creating works that were far ahead of his time. His design for Sculpture to Be Seen from Mars (1947) anticipates the space age by several decades. Yet Noguchi frequently found inspiration in ancient art and architecture, from Egyptian pyramids, to Buddhist temples and Zen gardens, to American Indian burial mounds. The exhibition Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern explores how the ancient world shaped this artist’s innovative vision for the future.

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern brings together seventy-four works, nearly all on loan from The Noguchi Museum, made over six decades. 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 equal parts artist and inventor and the exhibition devotes special attention to his patented designs, such as Radio Nurse—the first baby monitor, and includes his designs for stage sets, playgrounds, and utilitarian articles, many of which are still being produced today.

Noguchi was born in the United States to an American mother and Japanese father, and spent his childhood in Japan and teenage years in the American Midwest. He had a complex perspective on the events of World War II and drew on his unique global perspective to create artworks that confront both the positive and negative consequences of progress—from the devastating effect of the atomic bomb to the potential of atomic energy and promise of the space age, both of which are addressed in this thematically organized exhibition.

Dakin Hart, senior curator at The Noguchi Museum, and Karen Lemmey, sculpture curator 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.

The exhibition catalogue includes an essay by Dakin Hart, senior curator at The Noguchi Museum, which traces themes in the artist’s sixty-year career. The book, published by the museum in association with D Giles Limited, London, can be purchased in the museum store and online ($45).

Performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company—SOLD OUT
SAAM will present Cave of the Heart by the Martha Graham Dance Company in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium Friday, March 3, 2017, at 7 p.m. This powerful, one-act performance features a set and costume created by Noguchi that is considered an extension of the dancer's movements. Tickets are required for this performance.

Support for this program comes from the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian National Board.

Public Programs
Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 4 p.m., Conservation in Focus: Isamu Noguchi
Thursday, December 1, 2016, 6 p.m., Noguchi Curator Talk with Dakin Hart
Saturday, December 10, 2016, 3 p.m., Isamu Noguchi Films
Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 5:30 p.m., Noguchi Gallery Talk with Curator Karen Lemmey
Thursday, January 12, 2017, 12 p.m., Conservation in Focus: Isamu Noguchi
Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 5:30 p.m., Noguchi Gallery Talk with Curator Karen Lemmey
Friday, March 3, 2017, 7 p.m., Cave of the Heart Dance PerformanceSOLD OUT

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 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.