27 December 2007

Isamu Noguchi & Isamu Kenmochi

Round rattan chair designed by Isamu Kenmochi (left). A woven bamboo chair designed by Noguchi and Kenmochi working collaboratively (center). Kenmochi's Kashiwado Chair (right) was inspired by the stance of a sumo wrestler.
Uploaded by Andrew Raimist.

Noguchi and Kenmochi first met in Kenzo Tange's Tokyo University office in 1950. They worked together on a series of furniture projects of unusual design, materials, and craftsmanship. Although they collaborated for less than two years, the output of their work together is impressive. Kenmochi was technical officer of the Industrial Arts Research Institute (IARI) in Tokyo. An exhibition highlighting their work is presently on display at The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City (through 25 May 2008).

As described in the exhibition notice on the museum's website:
The two Isamus shared a similar mission: to create and design a universally exceptional object, something with an intrinsic beauty of simplicity that is grounded in the knowledge of natural materials but also combined with a vision and embrace of experimental techniques and materials. Based in Japanese traditions of design, they both understood that this shared mission needed to go beyond the mere exotic.
Other important works by Noguchi from this time period are included in the exhibition. In particular, the furnishings he created for the Shin Banraisha, or “New Welcoming Space,” (1951-52) at Keio University. Noguchi designed these spaces in honor of his estranged father Yonejiro Noguchi, a professor at the University. Unfortunately a few years ago, Keio University demolished the building that included this work, a classic design of Noguchi's encompassing architecture, sculpture, and furniture set in coordinated interior and exterior spaces.

“Design: Isamu Noguchi and Isamu Kenmochi” is on view through 25 May 2008 at The Noguchi Museum, 32-37 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, Queens; telephone: (718) 204-7088.

Noguchi & Yamaguchi, 1952-53

This image of Isamu Noguchi and Yoshiko Yamaguchi in Chuo Koron Gallery, Japan, 1952-53 is part of an exhibition entitled Design: Isamu Noguchi and Isamu Kenmochi.

Noguchi and Yamaguchi were married from 1952 to 1957. A prolific actress (also known in English as "Shirley Yamaguchi"), she was dubbed "The Gudy Garland of Japan". Unfortunately, they were both in demand in their respective fields resulting in substantial periods of time living separately. Yamaguchi was denied a visa to enter the United States resulting in more personal and professional difficulties. Although she was eventually permitted to enter the U.S., their relationship had been strained. Each artist made their work their highest priority making it difficult for them to resolve their temporal and geographic displacement from one another.

This photograph is part of an exhibit presently on display at The Noguchi Museum. The marble coffee table is on display along with other Noguchi furniture designs of the 1950s. His collaborations with Isamu Kenmochi form the nexus of the exhibit featuring rare, classic examples of their work from this period, some recreated especially for this presentation.

Archival image courtesy of The Noguchi Museum (photographer unknown).