Isamu Noguchi

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Isamu Noguchi, by trade a sculptor, also dabbled in furniture design. His background as a fine artist led to a furniture and house wares sensibility that differed from the Bauhaus designers in approach, influences, and even materials. He also focused on different types of goods than many other Bauhaus designers, such as hanging lights and freestanding lamps.

Outside of the world of designer furniture, Isamu Noguchi is best known for his work designing public spaces. Though abstract, his works are rooted in natural forms, and seem to be preoccupied with the play of space and light. Noguchi often incorporates pools of water into his designs for gardens, using the shimmering texture to offset rough-hewn stone and the transparency to create interplay between negative and positive forms.

The Isamu Noguchi coffee table, as a sculpture, is closely related to his works of the 1940s. Though the coffee table was apparently designed as a response to a comment made by Noguchi's contemporary, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, the table's understated variation on the three-leg design and solid wood and glass construction elevate it into a wholly different realm than most mid-20th century furniture. Next to Noguchi's sculptures (in particular, works like Strange Bird (To the Sunflower) of 1945 and The Seed of 1946), the table seems less a functional piece of furniture and more like a fully realized piece of abstract expressionist sculpture.

Isamu Noguchi's Akari Lights

During the 1950s, Isamu Noguchi translated his interest in light and space into the design of freestanding lamps and hanging lights. Simply and elegantly constructed, the lamps are constructed from washi paper and bamboo ribs. Most of the lamp designs inhabit a space between the geometric modernism of the Bauhaus and other avant-garde architecture of the period and Noguchi's earlier organic formal sculptures.


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