White Cube Bermondsey is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Isamu Noguchi (1904–88), produced in collaboration with The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Titled ‘A New Nature’, the show brings together several bodies of work that build organic environments from industrial methods and materials. The centrepiece will be a presentation of Noguchi’s Ceiling and Waterfall from the lobby of 666 Fifth Avenue, New York (1957), an undulating aluminium ceiling and a stainless steel louvered fountain wall that were permanently removed in 2019. Two ‘clouds’ of Noguchi’s Akari light sculptures and a complete set of the 26 galvanised steel works will provide further context on the artist’s interest in making his work subject to nature’s rhythms by inserting it into the flow of time. Five different configurations of Octetra, the modular, geometric play system he developed in the 1960s based on Buckminster Fuller’s theories about the fundamental structures found in nature, will be featured throughout.
Noguchi saw the standard museum pedestal as a false horizon, preferring to inspire empirical awareness and innate states of harmonisation – his own version of ecology. He encouraged us to understand ourselves – and everything we produce – as extensions of nature, rather than as defences against or challenges to it. ‘The nature of trees and grass is one thing. But there are many degrees of nature,’ he told a group of art students in San Francisco, 1970. ‘Concrete can be nature. Interstellar spaces are also nature. There is human nature. In the city you have to have a new nature. Maybe you have to create that nature.’ Noguchi saw the job of sculpture as nothing less than the shaping of civic life, projecting a communal usefulness onto raw and machine-made materials. An advocate of real-world engagement, he promoted an accessible, integrated, one-world vision of art with a public purpose.