Isamu Noguchi (American, 1904–1988)
8 x 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (20.3 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm)
John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, 2000 (2000.600.14)
© 2011 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Throughout his life, Isamu Noguchi worked in a variety of different media, producing stage designs, sculptures, ceramic objects, electrified paper lanterns, and industrial design. Radio Nurse was Noguchi's 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 form is highly sculptural, evoking the abstracted human head of the eponymous surrogate nurse. Radio Nurse is made of Bakelite, a plasticlike material that could be molded into almost any shape and dyed nearly any color. Bakelite was used in many industrial designs throughout the 1930s and '40s, including telephones, cameras, and radios. While Noguchi was comfortable working in a wide variety of materials, his formal vocabulary was consistent throughout each project, using abstracted, geometric forms, as evidenced by this highly unusual and evocative example of industrial design.