An unassuming brick wall, across the street from the Costco, is the façade to a quiet and beautiful small museum in Queens. If you weren’t headed for the Noguchi Museum, you would never even notice it. But it is well worth the trip.
Isamu Noguchi was a famous artist, known primarily for large-scale sculpture, public works and landscape design. In 1985 he founded the Noguchi Museum himself. The museum bills itself as “the first and only museum in the country to be founded by an artist during his lifetime and dedicated to his work.” * Which sounds a bit egotistical, but seems more created to showcase his unique design aesthetic.
|Gallery Space One|
The first space, a concrete pavilion open to the elements, displays a variety of stone sculpture. The beauty of the pieces is drawn out through cuts, polishing and display. These pieces are emblematic of the art of removal to bring the natural beauty through the stone. With names that provoke thought and contemplation, the first gallery is jarring.
The museum, open to picture taking and sketching, feels different from most displays of artwork. After just a few moments in this first section, you feel a calming influence that slows the viewer down. These giant stones are warm, tactile and colorful. They invite the viewer to linger.
The second area is an outdoor garden, grown mature since the late 1980s, which only expand on the notion that this is a time and location to savor. The grounds are tended but not overly manicured, evocative of the quiet backyards of resettled Nisei in Southern California.
|Visitors are encouraged to reax|
A small café and gift shop sit at the back of the museum, after the garden, but before the majority of the galleries. It serves as a pleasant break, and a change from the high pressure “exit through the gift shop” mentality so prevalent in most places.
Smaller galleries covering different phases of his work are scattered as you make your way to the second floor. Upstairs, some very early works are on view as well as videos on Isamu Noguchi and his work. There is also space for temporary exhibits.
|One of the smaller mixed media pieces|
The Noguchi Museum will inspire you to learn more about this man, and it is surprising. One of his designs, the Noguchi table is still produced and so ubiquitous that everyone has seen it somewhere.
Noguchi was also busy in New York in many artistic endeavors He designed stage sets for dramas as well as Martha Graham dance works. He also is known for the steel sculpture on the Associated Press Building at Rockefeller Center.
|The detailed steel sculpture at the API building at Rockefeller Center|
(photo credit Wally Gobetz)
*From the Noguchi Museum guide.