GA TALK 039 “Isamu Noguchi:The In-Between.” by Brett Littman (Director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum)

GLOBAL ART TALK 039 “Isamu Noguchi:The In-Between.” by Brett Littman (Director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum)

Explore Noguchi’s aesthetic philosophies, his identity, the founding of his museum in Astoria, New York, and several of his boundary and disciplinary crossing projects with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum’s director, Brett Littman.

Isamu Noguchi was someone who absorbed a tremendous amount of cross-cultural information as a young child, being a hybrid of American and Japanese descent. Noguchi experienced racism and discrimination in his time in America and he also experienced anti-Americanism and a certain skepticism of his work and intensions in Japan as well when he was child and later as an adult. His life and work sit on the fulcrum of his inability to find a “cultural home”, which is why Noguchi became such a global traveler at such an early age. He left America again in 1926 when he got a Guggenheim Fellowship and he started circumnavigating the globe. He was quite peripatetic and moved around a lot after this and can be consider one of the first global artist, someone who really traveled a lot and absorbed a lot from other cultures. He was very interested in the universality of what art could do.

The overarching theme for Noguchi is everything is sculpture, whether it was a table, lamp, a sculpture itself, or a garden. He viewed all space as something in which sculpture can exist. There was not a material that Noguchi ever met that he didn’t like or didn’t feel that he couldn’t exploit. And he didn’t care about the artificial divisions between materials, nor the division between what design was and architecture was and what fine art was. He was happily and fearlessly able to cross boundaries on any level. Sometimes, though, this was to the detriment of his career, because many people only know Noguchi as an industrial designer, not as an artist, and others only know him for his public sculpture, not his design. So he ended up kind of separating himself in the mind of the public, even though it was all whole in his own mind.

The goal of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum is to try and resynthesize the kaleidoscopic aspects of Noguchi’s life and make his work relevant to the dialogues of sculpture, design, landscape architecture, urban planning, play, scenography and earth art.
One of the ways we can do this is by creating concentric circles moving outwards rather than trying to contain everything within our four walls. The museum follows Noguchi’s lead in his expansive thinking and through our work with our local community, commissioned artists, dancers, philosophers, urban planners, and gardeners we can think about Noguchi together so that we can expand his legacy further.

About the Talk

Time/Date:2023.4.18 MON 19:00〜20:30
Venue:Ningenkan, B1F, Video Hall, Kyoto University of the Arts & Online Talk
Moderator:Emilie TSURU-DEVAUX
Translator: Kei Nakayama

Organized by:Kyoto University of the Arts, Graduate School of Art and Design Studies

About the Speaker

Brett Littman has been the Director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York since May 2018. He was Executive Director of The Drawing Center from 2007–2018; Deputy Director of MoMA PS1 from 2003–2007; Co-Director of Dieu Donné Papermill from 2001–2003 and Associate Director of Urban Glass from 1996–2001.
Littman’s interests are multi-disciplinary: he has overseen more than 150 exhibitions and personally curated more than thirty exhibitions over the last 16 years, dealing with visual art, outsider art, craft, design, architecture, poetry, music, science, and literature. He was named the curator of Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center for 2019 and 2020, is an art critic and lecturer and an active essayist for museum and gallery catalogues, in addition to writing articles for a wide range of U.S. and international art, fashion, and design magazines.
A native New Yorker, Brett Littman received a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from France in 2017 and his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego.


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