Isamu Noguchi, born in Los Angeles as the illegitimate son of an American mother and a Japanese poet father, was one of the most prolific yet enigmatic figures in the history of twentieth-century American art. Throughout his life, Noguchi (1904-1988) grappled with the ambiguity of his identity as an artist caught up in two cultures.
His personal struggles--as well as his many personal triumphs--are vividly chronicled in The Life of Isamu Noguchi, the first full-length biography of this remarkable artist. Published in connection with the centennial of the artist's birth, the book draws on Noguchi's letters, his reminiscences, and interviews with his friends and colleagues to cast new light on his youth, his creativity, and his relationships.
During his sixty-year career, there was hardly a genre that Noguchi failed to explore. He produced more than 2,500 works of sculpture, designed furniture, lamps, and stage sets, created dramatic public gardens all over the world, and pioneered the development of environmental art. After studying in Paris, where he befriended Alexander Calder and worked as an assistant to Constantin Brancusi, he became an ardent advocate for abstract sculpture.
Noguchi's private life was no less passionate than his artistic career. The book describes his romances with many women, among them the dancer Ruth Page, the painter Frida Kahlo, and the writer Anaïs Nin.
Despite his fame, Noguchi always felt himself an outsider. "With my double nationality and my double upbringing, where was my home?" he once wrote. "Where were my affections? Where my identity?" Never entirely comfortable in the New York art world, he inevitably returned to his father's homeland, where he had spent a troubled childhood. This prize-winning biography, first published in Japanese, traces Isamu Noguchi's lifelong journey across these artistic and cultural borders in search of his personal identity.
"One artist who succeeded brilliantly in absorbing Asian and Western influences was American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi. . . . One of the many merits of Masayo Duus's biography of Noguchi is her lively treatment of Noguchi's estranged father, Yonejiro (Yone”) Noguchi. . . . Whatever one makes of his poetry, Yonejiro was a pioneer in expressing his Japanese sensibility in a Western medium. . . . [Isamu] Noguchi pared his vision down to a basic sensuality, which owed something to Brancusi and European modernism, and something to Japanese traditional craftsmanship, but mostly to his own extraordinary talent and sensibility, which allowed him to find warm life in the hardest stones."--Ian Buruma, New York Review of Books
"Masayo Duus's Life is well considered and never merely effusive. . . . Noguchi was a consummate professional who excelled at whatever he undertook. . . . [He] was forever a Japanese-American. This was a source of energy, and perseverance, and an ambition that never faltered. But it was not a source of serenity."--John Russell, Times Literary Supplement
"Noguchi believed that 'my longing for affiliation has been the source of my creativity.' This is something that his biographer, Masayo Duus, also knows, and she has here most persuasively presented the interpretation that Noguchi would most have endorsed. The amount of material in her book is prodigious."--Donald Richie, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Factually dense but lyrically written, Duus's vivid biography of Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi is as sleek and sophisticated as her subject's marble sculptures. . . . Duus animates this packed biography with her detailed research and poignant anecdotes."--Publishers Weekly
Table of Contents:
Chapter One: Yone and Leonie 11
Chapter Two: His Mother's Child 33
Chapter Three: All-American Boy 77
Chapter Four: Journey of Self-Discovery 111
Chapter Five: Becoming a Nisei 149
Chapter Six: The Song of a Small 177
Chapter Seven: Honeymoon with Japan 205
Chapter Eight: The World of Dreams 239
Chapter Nine: The Universe in a Garden 273
Chapter Ten: Encounter with a Stonecutter 311
Chapter Eleven: Farewell to s Dreamer 349
Photgraphy Credits 439
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Peter Duus: