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Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) is renowned for his stone and bronze sculpture, his gardenlike installations in public spaces, and his furniture designs. Far less familiar, but no less important, is Noguchi's work in clay, which he executed in three intensive sessions in 1931, 1950, and 1952, all during visits to Japan. The pieces included in this elegant volume and the accompanying exhibition comprise the first major museum presentation of Isamu Noguchi's ceramics and the introduction of the work of major postwar Japanese ceramic artists with whom Noguchi collaborated or interacted. Supported by four linked essays and opulently illustrated in full color and black and white, Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics
highlights the sculptor's struggles with cultural identity and his experimentation with the conflicts between modernity and tradition.
Noguchi's sculptures in the medium of clay reveal informal, spontaneous, and humorous aspects not visible in less flexible media such as bronze or stone. Through clay, Noguchi probed unresolved personal issues surrounding his ambiguous cultural identity as the son of a Japanese father and American mother. Because Noguchi made his ceramics in Japan, his work also creates links to a diversity of approaches within the ceramic world of Japan. These range from traditionalists such as Kitaoji Rosanjin and the Living National Treasure designates, to primitivists exemplified by Okamoto Taro and Tsuji Shindo, to avant-garde experimentalists led by the Sodeisha group. An understanding of the nature and scope of the concerns Noguchi expressed through clay is crucial to understanding his work as a whole, and consideration of Japanese ceramic artists in the 1950s reveals a largely unknown genre of modern Japanese art. Copublished with the Smithsonian Institution