In 1938, famed Japanese-American sculptor, architect and industrial designer Isamu Noguchi submitted a proposal for a 22-foot-tall, stainless steel bas-relief sculpture to adorn the entrance of the Associated Press Building in New York City. The sculpture, to be called “News,” would depict five journalists riding the newswire, wielding the tools of their craft: a notepad, telephone, camera and wirephoto.
Isamu Noguchi’s “News”
Two years later in 1940, the frieze was unveiled and could not have been timelier. Noguchi’s work honored the endeavor of news gathering and exalted American journalists as larger-than-life heroes and the protectors of an informed public. He depicted a free press as the necessary “fourth branch” of any democracy.
But in February of 1942, in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that created internment camps up and down the West Coast designed to imprison over 125,000 Japanese immigrants and their descendants. This historic civil-rights injustice came about, in part, because of pressure from the American people fueled by anti-Japanese editorials and propaganda published by the American press.
Noguchi, Artist and Advocate
For the next few years, Noguchi advocated for Japanese-Americans through protests, art and essays. He even voluntarily admitted himself to the Poston internment camp in Arizona, where he tried to better the living conditions of those imprisoned there. But in the camp, he found his efforts to be futile and his presence unsettling for all parties. When the camps closed in 1946, Noguchi moved back to New York to focus on his art, while still being monitored by the FBI.
Then, of course, in 1947, he went on to design the quintessential modernist coffee table. (See the Noguchi coffee table in this living room.)
Read more about the life, dauntless spirit and enduring work of Isamu Noguchi here. And did you know he also designed a sculpture garden? Check out Noguchi’s Hidden Sculpture Garden in Southern California.
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