Isamu Noguchi

December 30 2021

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was a Japanese-American artist whose inherent desire to reform art into social experience was seemingly lost to the hostile regulations of the modern era. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture, and set designs. The selection below particularly focuses on his playground designs through which he expressed his utopic ambition of play-as-art.

Over the course of forty years Noguchi fought for this reintegration of the arts toward some purposeful and social end, and nowhere was this more apparent than in its playground designs. They are sculptures carved from the surface of the Earth into adventure spaces where kids could freely explore the environment as a fluid and boundless space without given instructions, like climb here and swing there. His first playground concept was completely free of the common play equipment. Only later did he integrate swings, slides and climbing frames as a concession to the conventional, state-approved playground blueprint. But at heart he wanted to create spaces for the playful development of children, so they wouldn’t loose their primal excitement for this spectacular life.

The Noguchi Museum in New York holds the biggest collection of his works and their website is a great place to explore more: View the collection

If you enjoy spatial art for bodily experiences, please see this previous post:
Ernesto Neto — The Body that carries me

I think of playgrounds as a primer of shapes and functions; simple, mysterious, and evocative; thus educational.
Isamu Noguch