Work (Mask)

Isamu Noguchi 野口勇 American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 202

In 1952, Noguchi was given access to Kitaōji Rosanjin’s kilns in Kamakura to experiment with ceramics and also visited Inbe, an area famous for Bizen ware, to study wood-firing methods. While working in the studio of Kaneshige Tōyō, the first Living National Treasure of Bizen ceramics, he created a plaster mold of an abstract “mask.” Most likely a self-portrait, Work (Mask) depicts a figure with a concentrated expression clenching a cigarette stub in its teeth. Constantin Brancusi’s sculptures provided Noguchi with a modernist context, but he found inspiration in Kofun-period Haniwa figures, ancient funerary objects that were hand-built and unglazed. His 1952 solo exhibition in Kamakura of groundbreaking ceramic sculptures had a powerful impact on progressive younger potters, such as the Sōdeisha members.

Work (Mask), Isamu Noguchi 野口勇 (American, Los Angeles, California 1904–1988 New York), Unglazed Bizen stoneware, Japan, Imbe

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