Isamu Noguchi: We Are the Landscape of All We Know

Isamu Noguchi, “Locked Hill,” 1970

May 3-July 21, 2013
Pavilion & Overlook
Garden Hours
Included with Garden Admission

This exhibition, on loan from the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, New York, will feature 22 works by acclaimed sculptor Isamu Noguchi amid the setting of the most authentic Japanese garden in North America. The works in the exhibition date from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s, spanning the artist’s long career in sculpture and design. Stone and metal sculptures will be exhibited inside the Garden’s Pavilion Gallery along with ink drawings on paper and Akari paper lanterns. Four large-scale stone sculptures will be installed outdoors, surrounded by the traditional Japanese garden styles that were among the global influences on Noguchi’s work.

Noguchi prized the beauty and vitality of natural materials such as stone and wood, and his abstract, modern designs incorporate many elements of traditional Japanese arts, such as simplicity, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. Noguchi’s work, at once subtle and bold, traditional and modern, is seen as a true bridge between East and West.

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, Noguchi created not only sculpture but also gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, and architecture. His set designs for Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine earned him a reputation as an artist capable of working across disciplines. The designs he created in the 1940s for Herman Miller—most notably his free-form coffee table—have become modern icons, as have his Akari paper lanterns.


Born in 1904 in Los Angeles to an American mother and a Japanese father, Isamu Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of 13. He returned to the United States to live and study, moving finally to New York, where he was greatly influenced by an exhibition of works by Constantin Brancusi. Noguchi traveled to Paris on a Guggenheim fellowship in 1924 to work in Brancusi’s studio. Returning to New York in 1929, Noguchi made a living during the depression as a portrait sculptor, earning money to fund other projects, including a collaboration with the painter Diego Rivera on a mural in Mexico City. His first large commission in the United States was a sculpture depicting the freedom of the press for the entrance of the Associated Press Building in New York City, completed in 1940.

After World War II, Noguchi’s work expanded to include gardens, fountains, and the large-scale public sculptures for which he is widely known. He continued to work in New York City, and established a second studio in 1969 in the village of Mure on the island of Shikoku in Japan, which is now open to the public as Noguchi Garden Museum, Japan. Toward the end of a long internationally acclaimed career, Noguchi opened The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), in Long Island City, Queens, New York in 1985. The museum, established and designed by the artist, marked the culmination of his commitment to public spaces.

In 1986, Noguchi represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. He received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988. He died in New York City in 1988.

Organized by the Portland Japanese Garden in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum.

This exhibition is presented by Arlene Schnitzer/The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation with additional support provided by the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Autzen Foundation.

Read more about the exhibition at and The Oregonian.

Isamu Noguchi, “Untitled,” circa 1955-1965