top of page

'Isamu Noguchi: This Earth, This Passage' at White Cube Mason's Yard

Isamu Noguchi: This Earth, This Passage at White Cube Mason’s Yard creates an environment where the impact on the viewer is driven by the successful commitment to the artist’s own ethos. Equipped with carefully selected works which educate and inform, the key to the power of this exhibition is in encouraging learning through observation. A huge thank you to White Cube for the imagery and research made available to substantiate this review.

Installation view of 'Isamu Noguchi: This Earth, This Passage'. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.
Installation view of 'Isamu Noguchi: This Earth, This Passage'. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.

The title of the show, This Earth, This Passage, is taken from a bronze sculpture of the same name, cast by the artist in 1962. Noguchi rolled out a coil of clay, and walked over it numerous times, around and around, allowing his stride to create imperfect yet consistent impressions in the surface. The result is a physical metaphor for the artist’s main philosophical and creative preoccupation: the importance of empirical experience in achieving connection, or more specifically, a sense of belonging. This can be done, according to the artist, using art as a tool.


Isamu Noguchi, 'This Earth, This Passage,' 1962. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.
Isamu Noguchi, 'This Earth, This Passage,' 1962. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.

White Cube sets up this and several more crucial components of Noguchi’s practice through curatorial choices, which provide an informative foundation for the viewer- work such as the bright red and undulating ‘Play Sculpture’ (1965-1980) which embodies Noguchi’s commitment to public works specifically made for recreation centres and playgrounds. He reinforces the importance of accessible environments for children to learn, specifically through experience. “I was always more interested in the space around the object, as much as the object itself,” the artist has commented. This is evident when physically maneuvering around the sculpture, whose form seems to send ripples through the very atmosphere. ‘Lady Mirror’ (1982-1983) is an emblematic example of the artist’s interlocking shape amalgamations that also investigate form in space, and the mirror further acknowledges the viewer's perspective of the form and of the viewer in its presence.


Isamu Noguchi, 'Play Sculpture', 1965–80. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
Foreground object: Isamu Noguchi, 'Play Sculpture', 1965–80. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Isamu Noguchi, 'Lady Mirror,' 1982-1983. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.
Isamu Noguchi, 'Lady Mirror,' 1982-1983. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.

These core considerations of environment, the body or self in the presence of space and objects, are all driven by a critical belief that experience leads to belonging and connection. This notion crescendos within the lower ground floor gallery, amongst the scenography setting for Martha Graham’s Dark Meadow (1946). Noguchi and Graham collaborated for over three decades on more than twenty stage sets, an explicit example of the figurative and performative qualities of Noguchi’s work. The viewer continues to freely engage with such concepts and learn from these actions, as Noguchi teaches.

Installation view of 'Set for Martha Graham's 'Dark Meadow'", 1946. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.
Installation view of 'Set for Martha Graham's 'Dark Meadow'", 1946. Courtesy of White Cube. 2023.

Of the dance Dark Meadow (1946), Graham wrote that she was motivated by ‘the adventure of seeking […] the re-enactment of the Mysteries that attend that adventure: remembrance of the ancestral footsteps, terror of loss, ceaselessness of loss, recurring ecstasy of the flowering branch.’ She envisioned a dance about the cycles of life, that span the biological, personal, social and cultural.

Photograph recording a performance of 'Dark Meadow', 1946 featuring Noguchi's stage set. Courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation. 2023.
Photograph recording a performance of Martha Graham's 'Dark Meadow', 1946, featuring Noguchi's stage set. Courtesy of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation. 2023.

Noguchi’s set exemplifies the extent to which he and Graham succeeded in making physical, internal and emotional geographies intertwine, eventually leading to greater understanding around geopolitical thinking and globalism, decades in advance of what we debate today. Of his own design, Noguchi wrote, ‘I made four primordial shapes to define space and as counterpoint to action. They are not stones, but serve the same purpose of suggesting the continuity of time. They move and the world moves.’ Thus we see this connectivity potential in the physical and the theoretical.


In Giacometti’s Shadow (1982–83), Noguchi has reworked Giacometti’s attenuated figures as ‘shadows’ only, emphasising that we humans are identified by the mark we leave on the world, physically and through our relationships. Noguchi also makes clear how sculpture engenders the urge toward self-awareness, which White Cube acknowledges in placing the ‘shadows’ alongside the living dancers of the Martha Graham recording that plays nearby. The viewer’s natural tendency to humanise sculpture is encouraged.

Isamu Noguchi, 'Giacometti’s Shadow', 1982–83. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
Isamu Noguchi, 'Giacometti’s Shadow', 1982–83. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

For Noguchi, sculpture is a discipline for understanding humanity’s place in the universe, a way of transcending imposed limitations, and for integrating the best habits and effects of art making into daily life. In Isamu Noguchi: This Earth, This Passage, the viewer sees, learns and feels these complicated concepts, indicating both the strength of the work and White Cube’s ability to curate so perceptively for their visitors.


For more information on this exhibition, or to learn about our 'Experiences' programme of lecture series, guided tours and more, please email kate@artscopeintl.com.

34 views

Comments


bottom of page