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  • Writer's pictureIna

Isamu Noguchi show at the White Cube Bermondsey until April

If you missed the Noguchi Retrospective at the Barbican, there’s another Isamu Noguchi exhibition in London. "A New Nature" brings together a series of artworks that reflect Noguchi’s attempts to make us aware of his broader understanding of nature. You can enjoy the exhibition for free until 3 April 2022 at White Cube Bermondsey.

"The nature of trees and grass is one thing, but there are many degrees of nature. Concrete can be nature. Interstellar spaces are also nature. There is human nature. In the city, you have to have a new nature. Maybe you have to create that nature." (Isamu Noguchi, 1970)

The works on display employ the artist’s favourite materials and methods while appealing to our common knowledge of what is organic.

stainless steel vertical wall fountain
Waterfall - a stainless steel louvered fountain wall by Isamu Noguchi

One such piece is "Ceiling and Waterfall, 666 Fifth Avenue" (1956–57) which is formed of two intertwined sculptures commissioned in 1955 for a new office building right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, New York City.

Noguchi’s vision was to transform a severe, modernist space of black and white marble into a fictional scenery that doubled as a buffer from urban noise. The undulating, wave-like arrangements of stainless steel and aluminium became a sea of clouds accompanied by the soothing sound of falling water, which was meant to subsume and transmute the loud traffic from Fifth Avenue.

Isamu Noguchi's sculptural aluminium ceiling

Noguchi’s signature light sculptures strike again, this time as cloud formations. Called Akari lanterns, they embody the artist’s efforts to expand the potential, concept, and purpose of sculpture. By being handy, inexpensive, they can be easily shipped and stored, they epitomize the opposite of our preconceived notions of sculpture.

“Inherent in Akari are fragility and lightness. They seem to offer a magical unfolding away from the material world.” Isamu Noguchi (1987)

Buoyant and elevating, their natural life-giving warmth as well as their actual and metaphorical lightness offer, as Noguchi liked to say, “a foil to our harsh, mechanized existence.”

Inspired by the candle-lit lanterns created to illuminate night fishing along the Nagara River, Noguchi modernized the ancient craft by enhancing it with electricity, elevating the lantern to a twentieth-century design object.

Akari’s allure has never diminished. Collapsible, simple to fold, and affordable, they produce light, heat, organize space, and support life, or as Noguchi Museum’s senior curator Dakin Hart believes: “one Akari in an empty room generates the ineffable space-concept we call home.”

Another highlight of the show is Octetra, a modular geometric play system that can be endlessly reconfigured. Developed by Noguchi in the 1960s, the configurations showcased at the White Cube are made of Fiberglas.

One of the five different arrangements of Octetra
Gallery view of an arrangement of Octetra.

📍 White Cube Bermondsey, 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ

📅 Until 3 April 2022.

🎫 FREE entry.

⏰ Opening hours: Monday Closed; Tue-Sat 10 am - 6 pm; Sunday 12 – 6 pm.

🚇 The closest London Underground station is London Bridge on the Jubilee and Northern Lines.

*All photos were taken by Ina/WithinLondon, unless stated otherwise :)


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