Isamu Noguchi and Martha Graham

Body and sculpture interact.

01.28.2022

The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01590. Photo: Michael Avedon ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS

Isamu Noguchi, a sculptor and designer, and Martha Graham, a dancer and choreographer, collaborated on more than 20 performances together. By melding the works of these two defining voices of the twentieth century, a new American art form was born. Noguchi and Graham both demonstrated a pure and simple essence of shape and movement that evoked the shock of recognition in the viewers. They thoroughly understood the relationship between the designer and choreographer, and how the work informed the other. It was a symbiotic relationship. Graham used the sets “as extensions of her own anatomy,” as Noguchi put it. And the sculptor, likewise, was interested throughout his career in making art that was an interactive microcosm, such as his playgrounds and industrial design. Together, they defined the experimental capabilities and necessary possibilities of artistic collaboration between creative geniuses.

“In our work together, it is Martha who comes to me with the idea, the theme, the myth upon which the piece is to based. There are some sections of music perhaps, but usually not. She will tell me if she has any special requirements ... the form is then my projection of these ideas. I always work with a scale model of the stage space in my studio. Within it I feel at home and am in command. With Martha, there is the wonder of her magic with props. She uses them as extensions of her own anatomy.” -Isamu Noguchi

All images were provided by The Noguchi Museum Archives. Text by Josie Ford.

The Noguchi Museum Archives, B_CLI_2017_1955. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 09428.6. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 152124. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 06919. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01889. Photo: Martha Swope. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00032. Photo: Kevin Noble. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 12657. Photo: Martha Graham Dance Company. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01508. Photo: Barbara Morgan. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01886. Photo: Martha Swope. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00474. Photo: Kevin Noble. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 06913. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01621. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01590. Photo: Michael Avedon ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01663. Photo: Philippe Halsman. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01660. Photo: Philippe Halsman. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01618. Photo: Cris Alexander. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 142984. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00142. Photo: Kevin Noble. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01620. Photo: Arnold Eagle. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00095. Photo: Kevin Noble. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00097. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 00096. Photo: Kevin Noble. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01577. Photo: Arnold Eagle. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01576. Photo: Arnold Eagle. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01575. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS
The Noguchi Museum Archives, 01572. Photo: Arnold Eagle. ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS