With the cultural listings in New York’s outer boroughs on the steady rise, it seems only fitting that two of the organisations with longstanding legacies east of the East River – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum – should collaborate on an exhibition. This fall they do, with the exhibition ‘Isamu Noguchi at Brooklyn Botanic Garden’, on view until 13 December.
Based in Queens, the Noguchi Museum has been undergoing renovations, which led to the closure of its outdoor exhibition spaces. The collaboration with Brooklyn Botanic Garden allows part of its collection to be seen en plein air, which, as any student of Noguchi’s work will insist, is the only way to experience it. Dakin Hart, the program’s curator, agrees, saying, 'If I had a choice of doing a full retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art or doing this, I would do this.'
Hart positioned the exhibition’s 15 sculptures at different points throughout the sprawling botanic gardens, including six in its Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. There, Hart worked within the Japanese garden tradition, allowing the works to fade and reappear as visitors walk through the serpentine promenade. 'It’s the antithesis of plop art,' he remarks.
Noguchi designed many of the pieces to respond to environmental cues. With Sky Mirror, 1970, for example, the polished contour of the low-slung basalt sculpture does just what its title suggests it should – an effect lost in a white gallery. Positioned outdoors, as it is with this exhibition, it changes throughout the day. 'This gets to the full spirit of the work,' says Hart. 'It’s so important to look beyond the pedestal of the museum.'