Isamu Noguchi has been an iconic figure in sculpture, architecture and design since the 1950s. Born to an American teacher and a Japanese poet, Isamu Noguchi’s keen awareness of the divide between Eastern and Western artistic traditions served as a source of inspiration throughout his career. Looking through his work, one senses the influence of both American post-war modernism and a traditional Japanese aesthetic. Nowhere is this blending of cultural values more evident than in his famous Akari Light Sculptures, a collection of handmade floor, table and ceiling luminaries.
The word ‘akari’ is Japanese for light in terms of brightness or illumination, but the word also suggests light in the sense of weightlessness. In the Akari Light Sculptures, Isamu Noguchi has managed to simultaneously embody both of these meanings. “Looking more fragile than they are, Akari seem to float, casting their light as in passing,” he explains. “They perch light as a feather, some pinned to the wall, others clipped to a cord, and all may be moved with a thought.” Their presence is thus a unique one, at once transformative of a space and transitory within it.
The Akari Light Sculptures have been manufactured by the same company in Gifu, Japan since 1951. The original craft techniques have been maintained throughout their production, and each model is still made by hand from bamboo and the beautiful Shoji-paper. Steeped as they are in tradition, the Akari Light Sculptures remain timeless pieces, as fresh today as they were over half a century ago.