Born in the United States, Isamu Noguchi (1904 – 1988) lived in Japan until he was 13 years old, and was deeply affected by Japanese art and culture. In 1930, the artist returned to Japan to study its sculptural traditions and ceramics
Miss Expanding Universe (1932) was the first sculpture Noguchi made upon his return to the United States in 1932. In this work, he combined machine-age streamlining with characteristics of ancient Japanese funerary sculpture (haniwa).
Later that same year, the artist transformed this flowing form into a sacklike costume for the pioneering dancer and choreographer Ruth Page and her ballet, Expanding Universe.
The Financial District in Lower Manhattan is a playground for monumental public art installations, including Isamu Noguchi’s Red Cube, which was installed on the plaza at 140 Broadway Between Cedar and Liberty Streets in 1968.
The diagonal lines of red painted steel stand in contrast to the stark horizontal and vertical lines of the adjacent front of the HSBC Building (formerly the Marine Midland Bank) by architect Gordon Bunshaft. Despite its title, the sculpture is not actually a cube, but instead seems as though it has been stretched along its vertical axis.
Aside from it’s striking color, Red Cube also stands out from the surrounding architecture in that all of its lines are diagonals, whereas the buildings are made up of horizontal and vertical lines. Additionally, the sculpture is balanced somewhat precariously on one corner, while the buildings, by contrast, and solidly placed.
Through the center of the cube there is a cylindrical hole, revealing an inner surface of gray with evenly-spaced lines moving from one opening of the hole to the other. Looking through this hole, the viewer’s gaze is directed skyward, towards the building behind, tying the sculpture and the architecture together.
Red Cube is Located at 140 Broadway (at Liberty Street) New York, N.Y.10005. By Subway, Take the 4 or 5 to Wall Street Station.
Hundreds of books about Art are published every year and it’s challenging for even hardcore Art enthusiasts like me to keep track of the best ones. But I don’t think I’ve yet come across a coffee table-sized Art book that I wanted to peruse cover-to-cover for hours in the way I do Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of The Americas — a comprehensive collection of public art, due out from Phaidon Press in November, 2013.
When I find myself in what I would call a “Destination Neighborhood” – meaning an area that I wouldn’t normally be in except for a planned visit to a specific site or event – I always try to do as much as possible in that locale before returning home, because I probably won’t be going back any time soon. And so it happened that when Geoffrey and I made the haul out to Long Island City to visit the Socrates Sculpture Park, we also walked just a few blocks up Vernon Blvd to the Noguchi Museum, which Geoffrey had pegged as a stop well worth making. As usual, he was right on. Continue reading A Visit to The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City→