A sculpture by Isamu Noguchi has become the first work by an Asian American to feature in the White House’s art collection, according to the White House Historical Association.

The piece, titled “Floor Frame,” was unveiled by first lady Melania Trump in the Rose Garden on Friday. Designed in 1962, and cast in black patina and bronze the next year, the sculpture is composed of rectangular blocks that appear to sink and rise from the ground.

"Floor Frame" is displayed in the White House Rose Garden on November 21. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
“Floor Frame” is displayed in the White House Rose Garden on November 21. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

According to a statement on the White House’s official website, Noguchi, who died in 1988, envisaged “Floor Frame” as the “intersection of a tree and the ground, taking on the qualities of both an implied root system and the canopy.” The sculpture is now located in the Rose Garden’s east terrace.

“I am excited to announce the installation of Floor Frame to the newly restored White House Rose Garden,” said First Lady Melania Trump. “This sculpture not only showcases diversity within our Nation’s finest art but it also highlights the beautiful contributions of Asian American artists to the landscape of our country.”

© The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York Artist Rights Society [ARS] - JASPAR. Photo by Jack Mitchell.
© The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York Artist Rights Society [ARS] – JASPAR. Photo by Jack Mitchell.

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors. Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture, and set designs. His work, at once subtle and bold, traditional and modern, set a new standard for the reintegration of the arts.

Noguchi’s work was not well-known in the United States until 1940, when he completed a large-scale sculpture symbolizing the freedom of the press, which was commissioned in 1938 for the Associated Press Building in Rockefeller Center, New York City. This was the first of what would eventually become numerous celebrated public works worldwide, ranging from playgrounds to plazas, gardens to fountains, all reflecting his belief in the social significance of sculpture.

Pearl Harbor motivated him to become a political activist

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Japanese Americans in the United States had a dramatic personal effect on Noguchi, motivating him to become a political activist. In 1942, he cofounded Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the patriotism of Japanese Americans; and voluntarily entered the Colorado River Relocation Center (Poston) incarceration camp in Arizona where he remained for six months.

Noguchi’s first retrospective in the United States was in 1968, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. In 1986, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988. He died in New York City in 1988.

Source: CNN, www.noguchi.org

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