Monday, May 14, 2018

"Akari: Sculpture By Other Means"--The Lighting of Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Nogchi was a multi-disciplinary Modernist master. Born in Los Angeles in 1904 to a Japanese father and white mother, Noguchi grew up in Japan until he was 13. During these formative years, he clearly absorbed the respect and love of craft and form. He studied art and sculpture (with Constantin Brâncuși among others!) and created a vast body of work ranging from environmental design and sculptural gardens to product design to children's playgrounds to furniture design to sets for choreographers Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine, and composer John Cage. “Everything is sculpture,” Noguchi said. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture."

I previously created a post here about Noguchi's iconic cocktail table consisting of two boomerang-shaped pieces of wood delicately supporting a glass top. And I have been meaning to follow up that post with one about his equally iconic paper lanterns which became part of Mid-Century design as well. Since the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, New York is currently presenting "Akari: Scuplture By Other Means" featuring an unprecedented collection of his paper lanterns, now seems the perfect time.

The museum exhibition information says:
"Akari: Sculpture by Other Means occupies the Museum’s second-floor galleries. It includes several installations that allow visitors to experience ways that Isamu Noguchi’s Akari—a modular ecosystem of lightweight, collapsible paper lanterns—can create and transform space.

Noguchi’s electrified paper, bamboo, and metal Akari light sculptures have quietly become among the most ubiquitous sculptures on Earth. Their origins lie in 1951 when, on a trip to a still devastated post-war Japan, Noguchi was asked by the mayor of the small town of Gifu City to help revitalize the local lantern industry by creating a modern lamp for export using the traditional washi paper (made by hand from the inner bark of the mulberry tree) and bamboo.

Inspired by the lanterns that illuminated night fishing on the Nagara River, Noguchi worked with local firm Ozeki & Co. to combine the elements of the traditional paper lantern with electricity. He designed a dizzying array of new forms—creating contemporary art by marrying ancient craft with the defining technology of the twentieth-century. He would go on to create more than 200 models of Akari, including an entire line for his exhibition for the American Pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale, in the process receiving five American and thirty-one Japanese patents.

The installations in Sculpture by Other Means create a series of environments that convey the essential values of Akari, drawing on the organizational, structural and ephemeral qualities of nature, and exemplifying Noguchi’s concept of light as both place and object. These include the chamber-like Akari PL1 and an eight-foot cube made of illuminated PL2 panels.

Also featured is the Akari 200D, a two-meter wide globe Noguchi made for his 1986 Venice Biennale presentation (titled, tellingly, Isamu Noguchi: What is Sculpture?). Designed in 1985, the 200D is the largest Akari that Noguchi ever created. It is displayed here as it was at the Biennale, in a large wood-frame box, based on a Japanese display niche, that Noguchi made for that exhibition."

All exhibition photos above by Nicholas Knight via Design Boom

"Akari: Sculpture By Other Means" shows through Sunday, January 27, 2019. If you are in, near, or will be near Long Island City, this is a great opportunity. Contact the museum for more information.

Happy designing!

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