Isamu Noguchi (American, 19041988); Manufacturer: Ozeki & Co., Ltd.
Mulberry bark paper, bamboo, wire; H. 114 in. (289.6 cm), Diam. 18 7/8 in. (47.9 cm)
Gift of Daniel Wolf, 1990 (1990.74)
© 2011 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The American sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed this "Akari" hanging lamp. About 9.5 feet tall, it is made of mulberry bark paper stretched over a collapsible wire and bamboo framework; a series of bulbs, strung along a single electrical cord suspended within, lights it. The interlocking geometric shapes are sculptural in effect, and evoke traditional Japanese hanging lanterns.
In the early 1950s, Noguchi traveled to the Japanese town of Gifu. The mayor of the town requested the widely respected Noguchi to provide designs for lanterns in an effort to revive the dying lamp-making industry for which the town was traditionally known (the local craftsmen had been reduced to manufacturing cheap painted-silk party decorations). The name "Akari," which is Japanese for "light," indicates that Noguchi intended to create a luminous sculpture as much as a practical source of illumination, and underlines the close ties between art and design.