Isamu Noguchi

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

A long and winding road leads fromIsamu Noguchi’s first formal design for an environmental work, an urban playground entitled Play Mountain, 1933, to the recently completed Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, which he created for the Museum of Fine Arts’ sculpture collection. That ambitious project of 53 years ago exists only as an austere plaster model. Never constructed, it initiated a string of unrealized large-scale outdoor projects Noguchi conceived during the ’30s and ’40s.

By the early ’50s, however, the pattern of rejection of his proposals had begun to shift toward favorable reception. Following several imposing commissions in Japan, Noguchi was invited by Marcel Breuer in 1956 to design a patio for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Completed in 1958, this surprisingly effective blend of Eastern tradition and Modernist innovation took hold of the site in a far more expansive

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