Noguchi worked in a variety of media and Radio Nurse was his first major industrial commission. Together with a separate enameled metal receiver called the Guardian Ear, this piece functions as a baby monitor, transmitting sounds from the baby’s room to the receiver. The highly sculptural form evokes an abstracted human head: the eponymous surrogate nurse. Made of Bakelite, a plasticlike, malleable material that could be dyed almost any color, Radio Nurse is an excellent example of the new, industrial material’s sculptural qualities.
Marking: Manufacturer's marks (on back, molded in high relief): ZENITH RADIO + SOS [logo] + NURSE/ DESIGNED BY NOGUCHI/ PATENT APPLIED FOR/ 117 VOLTS–50/60 CYCLE–25 WATTS/ ZENITH RADIO CORP., CHICAGO
John C. Waddell, New York (by 1999–2000; his gift to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 16, 2000–January 7, extended to February 4, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 164; as "'Radio Nurse' Radio Transmitter," lent by the John C. Waddell Collection, Promised Gift of John C. Waddell).
Newport Beach, Calif. Orange County Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 25–August 19, 2001, unnumbered cat.
Flint, Mich. Flint Institute of Arts. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," September 14–December 16, 2001, unnumbered cat.
Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," January 11–April 7, 2002, unnumbered cat.
Charlotte, N. C. Mint Museum of Craft and Design. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 3–July 28, 2002, unnumbered cat.
Tulsa, Okla. Philbrook Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," August 23–November 17, 2002, unnumbered cat.
Nancy Grove. Isamu Noguchi: Portrait Sculpture. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. Washington, D. C., 1989, pp. 19–20, fig. 24.
Josef Strasser in "122 Selected Works from the New Acquisitions 1990 to 1995." A Century of Design. Insights: Outlook on a Museum of Tomorrow. Die Neue Sammlung, State Museum of Applied Arts, Munich. Ed. Florian Hufnagl. Stuttgart, 1996, pp. 112–13, ill. (color) (State Museum of Applied Arts, Munich collection), calls it "Shortwave Set 'Radio Nurse'".
David A. Hanks and Anne Hoy. American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow. Paris, 2005, p. 173, no. 109, ill. (color; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts collection), call it "Shortwave Radio Transmitter: 'Radio Nurse'".